Platform PlayStation Vita Genre Action Adventure
Developer / Publisher Drinkbox Studios
Severed is without a doubt one of the biggest PlayStation Vita exclusives to launch this year – and for good reason. Despite the fact PlayStation Vita exclusives are few and far between, Severed has been developed by Drinkbox Studios, an independent developer of the highest pedigree.
Like many of the most memorable Vita releases, Severed utilises the unique features of Sony’s handheld device in intuitive and unique ways. During these moments I found myself completely immersed in the dark and twisted world that Severed has to offer, but unfortunately these interesting ideas create some of Severed’s most glaring problems.
Watching Severed gameplay may make you think this is a Fruit Ninja clone, but gameplay footage does not do the intuitive and in-depth gameplay justice. Like virtual reality software, the best way to truly experience Severed is to play first hand. While Fruit Ninja expects players to swipe away on their touch-pads with reckless abandon, Severed will cut you into tiny pieces if you dare try this amateur tactic.
Utilising the front touch-pad of the Vita Severed players you to utilise your swipes with precision, as you cut down multiple enemies at the same time. There were times where I was facing four different enemies, all of which have their own unique attack pattern and weak spots. Juggling battles against four different enemies while wailing random swipes at each enemy will not help your cause, each swipe must be precise and accurate in order to keep all these vicious monsters at bay. Swiping the touchscreen is your only form of attack, but fortunately Severed offers a steep challenge and a multitude of enemy variants to keep the touch-based gameplay enjoyable. Each enemy type has a superior variety that will require the player to hold the touchscreen before attacking in order break their outer defences – all the while throwing enemies with different statistics buffs, such as regenerating health, bonus speed and higher attack. Severed’s combat requires a high level of speed, quick thinking and attention to detail.
Impressively the majority of my touch screen attacks were recognised flawlessly, with only a small percentage of swipes either not recognised at all or were not swiped long enough for the Vita to recognise. The main issue with Severed’s intuitive gameplay is the position the Vita needs to be held in order to be successful. Since one hand will always be focusing on the touchscreen attack methods, the other hand must be used to rotate the camera to the other enemies in battle – which makes holding the handheld a real pain. Severed is certainly not a game that can be successfully played on the morning commute, as I found the console would almost fall out of my grip during intense battles. These issues are certainly worth noting if you plan on playing Severed on public transport, or in uncomfortable areas.
Severed follows the story of Sasha, a young girl who has had her arm severed, her family stolen, and now finds herself is a strange unknown world. During Severed’s 6 hour campaign Sasha hunts down her missing family in order to bring them home – and that’s about as deep as this story goes. Sasha meets a few characters throughout her adventure, but none stick around long enough or have enough personality to really become memorable to the story. Sasha’s journey to find her family is clear, but aside from that point everything else is vague. When the credits eventually rolled I found myself left with dozens of question regarding Sasha and the strange world Severed explores, but unfortunately Severed doesn’t offer any answers. Severed begins with an interesting story premise, only to hook you in with unique gameplay methods, and eventually leave you scratching your head upon its conclusion.
Severed is entirely first person and exploration takes place in a similar vein to the Etrian Odyssey series or Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth. Dungeons throughout Severed are relatively light on puzzles when compared to both previously mentioned games, as only a handful of puzzle variants actually exist. Severed’s main offering of puzzles require certain switches to be hit or levers to be turned to open certain doors, while a handful of hidden books create some of the most interesting and thought provoking puzzles in the game. These puzzles were easily the most interesting, which require roughly drawn images to be used to find hidden items. These puzzles are few and far between, but definitely provide the most satisfying conclusion when solved. Most of the hidden items are pieces of heart and brain that upgrade Sasha’s health and mana respectively. One would disregard these upgrades are mere collectables; but each item is actually incorporated into the dark world of Severed. Instead of simply finding the collectables and receiving an upgrade, Sasha must eat both the heart and brain items in order to receive increased power. These scenes are not gruesome in the slightest, but I appreciated the fact these collectables thematically made sense in the dark and twisted world of Severed.
In order to upgrade Sasha’s powers players are required to sever the limbs of defeated enemies. These moments take place after an enemy has been defeated and if Sasha has performed well during the battle to fulfill her Focus Meter. These scenes offer a few seconds for players to swipe limbs off their foes, with each upgrade on Sasha’s skill tree requiring different severed limbs. These scenes require a fast finger and reminded me of the intense duels from Red Dead Redemption; accuracy and speed is a key to making the most out of these butchering events.
The world of Severed is twisted, which is why eating organs and severing limbs for upgrade purposes fit perfectly into this atmospherically intense world Drinkbox has created. While the art style may look similar to both Guacamelee! And Mutant Blobs Attack, Severed is on another level in terms of producing a genuinely unpleasant world. Each enemy variant has been created to fit this dark theme, with creatures looking like they have been ripped out of the pages of Silent Hill or Resident Evil – and the boss encounters only add to the impressively disturbing nature of these enemies.
Severed is an ambitious release that utilises the unique features of the PlayStation Vita well, and is easily one of the best Vita exclusives available. Narratively Severed struggles to produce a memorable hero, or even a memorable story; but the addictive and immersive gameplay kept me coming back.
One of the biggest drawbacks of the unique combat system is the awkward position in-which the Vita must be held in order to become victorious in battle. Severed’s combat is challenging, but unfortunately the challenge of keeping your Vita from falling to its untimely death is the biggest test.
Severed is a dark and twisted package of beauty, with maniacal enemy design, an intense soundtrack and intuitive touch controls that set the bar for touch-based gaming experiences on the PlayStation Vita.
Touch-based controls with intuitive design.
Dark and twisted themes.
Vague story with forgettable characters.
Gameplay requires Vita to be held in awkward positions.