Updated on July 28th at 12:15: Three months after gracing the PS Vita, Drinkbox’s surreal RPG is now available on iPad and iPhone, and Severed seems perfectly at home on mobile. The story and gameplay remains the same - as Sasha explores a nightmarish place of monsters and magic to reunite with her family - but transplanted from Vita’s smaller screen to iPad (and iPhone), the touch-friendly nature of the action feels enhanced. Severed is designed like a classic dungeon crawler, turning left and right at junctions, moving back and forth through rooms, fighting enemies and solving puzzles along the way. Combating those foes revolves around sword swipes, striking at weak points to parry and damage; there’s a familiar touch of Fruit Ninja and Infinity Blade, but Severed requires careful time management as you face multiple enemies at once, interrupting their attacks and building your Focus so you can remove their limbs.
It’s the little things that make Severed on mobile feel like a definitive version, from the ease of multi-touch drags to rotate the camera, to simple taps to move through the corridors, to the extra screen space to deliver those long slashes for extra damage. And especially on iPad, the larger screen means the game’s world of grotesque jagged-toothed monsters and fleshy eldritch undergrowth is that much more vibrant.
Our praise of Severed on Vita remains true for its mobile cousin; ambitious, slick, stylish, and damn pretty, this is a unique dungeon crawler worth playing.
Imagine Legends of Grimrock crossed with Wind Waker and Majora's Mask, sprinkled with a side helping of The Swords, and you'll have a pretty good idea what to expect from Severed.
This flavoursome fusion is a Playstation Vita exclusive from Drinkbox Studios that manages to capture the charm and style of Nintendo's flagship franchise, but does so in a way that pays tribute to the successes and strengths of Sony's handheld.
Cut the dope
You play Sasha, a distraught, one-armed warrior who wields a living blade. Not living in the sense that it prefers to spend its Saturday nights sat in front of the TV eating pizza, but that it thrives off the essence of spirits.
Sasha has to confront a nightmare-fuelled world in order to find her missing family, while eating hearts to boost her strength, and slicing off limbs to gain new abilities.
Surprisingly though, the plot isn't the real showcase here. It's the pastel-y art-style which really helps enrich the experience, making it much more atmospheric.
Severed is set in a series of Zelda-esque dungeons, only they're much bigger in scope, each one filled with several wings of enemies, different coloured doors, and traps.
The concept is essentially the same as Zelda, except you're playing from a first person perspective, and instead of finding keys you have to pull levers and tap at hidden bricks in the wall to reveal secret entrances.
Of course, this all builds up to a big boss battle at the end of each temple once you've found the rubies to unlock a foreboding, though slightly oversized door.
Which brings us onto combat, something that feels fresh and thought-provoking in equal measure.
While you're ultimately just repeatedly screen-swiping, each fight requires a different strategy. Enemies will spawn all around Sasha, so you have to time your attacks appropriately in order to be effective at both offence and defence.
Small icons appear at the bottom of the screen representing enemy health, and around them is a moving yellow bar showing when they're ready to attack. When it's full you'll have to turn to face them, deflecting before they make a dent in your health.
Each enemy has a different method of attack. Some will swipe back at you, some will fire pins in your direction, or use laser beams. Others will jump over your head and force you to change position. However once they're exposed, you can unleash your finger of fury at their weak spot.
Once defeated, you can then sever the limbs of your enemies and use them to further your own abilities, whether you're reducing incoming damage, adding to critical damage, or increasing sever time.
Sure, it's all a bit macabre, but it works really well within the game's murky exterior.
Sounds great, but is this really a Vita only game?
For now, yes. Severed could definitely work on any touch-sensitive device, but I'm glad to see such strong support for a platform that has very few upcoming exclusives in the West.
Admittedly, the game does have its failings. While Zelda's dungeons are more compact, and the design choices are more satisfying, in Severedsubstance and repetition does become an issue.
There's occasional aimless walking when a lever you pull in one room seems to open a nearby door, but actually requires you to take a much longer way around.
Enemy balance can also become a bit overwhelming at times, and the amount of damage it takes to kill does lend itself to occasional monotony.
Still, this is a fresh dungeon-crawling experience the likes of which are rarely found outside of the Nintendo camp.
Drinkbox has bottled something borderline magical, conjuring up one of the deepest, most rewarding touch-experiences in recent memory.