Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Even if you went into Severed without knowing that it was created by the same studio that also made Guacamelee, I suspect that you'd probably link the two after just a few minutes. While Drinkbox Studios' latest isn't completely identical to their previous game, the two share enough DNA that it wouldn't be too hard to draw a line connecting one to the other.
For the most part, this is a good thing. Case in point: the graphics. Severed's art style owes a great deal to that of Guacamelee, what with its bright colors and angular shapes, but it's hard to bemoan its return when it looks so excellent. Even if the vast majority of the game consists of you traveling through dungeons and forests, because it has such a distinctive style, it never starts feeling stale or repetitive on the visual front.
Likewise, the combat system is a lot of fun. Just as Guacamelee was defined by quick punches and kicks, Severed is all about slashing your way through enemies with perfect timing. Initially it can seem a little overwhelming, as you're called upon to combine both touch controls and a thumbstick, but it doesn't take long before the combination of slashing and turning becomes second nature. On this front, too, the game is balanced very nicely, demonstrating an impressive instinct for introducing new enemies just at the precise time the existing ones start to become easier to beat.
Unfortunately, there's one area where Severed doesn't build on the success of Guacamelee, and it's what prevents this game from reaching the same dizzying heights as its Drinkbox Studios predecessor. I'm talking here of the game's sense of humor. Anyone who played Guacamelee — or either of Drinkbox's Mutant Blobs games that preceded it, for that matter — will be well aware of how good that game was at making you laugh. It took all kinds of memes and dumb jokes that could very easily have come off as dated, and turned them into surprisingly subtle visual gags that were nearly everywhere if you had an eye out for them. It was rarely laugh out loud hilarious, but they were so well-placed and well-timed, you would've had to have a total stone exterior to play that game and be grinning the whole way through.
Severed doesn't have that. Much has been made elsewhere about how Severed is kind of like a super-refined, no-frills approach to Guacamelee, but that's really only true of the story — and unfortunately, I don't think that change is for the better. I loved the visual humor in Drinkbox's previous outings, so for them to tell a story that's so sparse feels like a bit of a step backwards.
I hate even saying that, since on the whole, I rather enjoyed Severed. Like I said, the combat was outstanding, and the world in which it takes place is gorgeous and vibrant. Not only that, as a Vita diehard, it pains me to give an exclusive for the system anything other than a rave review. But I have to be honest here — and the unfortunate truth is, as good as Severed may be, it's hard to shake the feeling that it could've been even better.