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Severed Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . While it can be maddening at times, Severed is also a beautifully realized adventure game filled with bizarre characters and dangerous enemies. It's also a compelling Metroidvania-style quest, filled with hidden areas and secret paths. It can be frustrating at times and the PS Vita's touchscreen isn't always precise, but Severed is a journey worth taking. Rating: 78%
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  • B+
I had my doubts about Severed, the newest game from DrinkBox Studios. Despite loving Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee, I feared that the touchscreen combat could become repetitive and the modest story wouldn't be enough to keep me engaged. But as the world expanded and the mechanics evolved, my fears began to disappear. And even after I completed the game and saw the story through, I couldn't stop thinking about the emotional journey and the challenging fights. I'm going to take that as a good sign.

You play a one-armed woman named Sasha, who carries a "living sword" and is driven by her thirst for revenge. An evil dragon has destroyed her home, cut off her left arm and kidnapped the entire family, and it's up to Sasha to explore every inch of this mysterious world to not only save her loved ones, but make sure it never happens again.

You see all this play out from the first-person perspective, but this is not a traditional first-person action game. Instead of walking around the interconnected world and aiming at the same time, players are forced to take the on the world one space at a time. It reminds me of the 3D dungeons in the original Phantasy Star, only this time around the world is visually arresting and more interactive.

As Sasha roams through this alien world, she'll run into all kinds of dangerous enemies along the path. Taking cues from games like Infinity Blade and Mike Tyson's Punch-Out, Severed has us memorizing enemy patterns and using the PS Vita's touchscreen to hack and slash our way to victory. Once you've defeated the foe, you will be able to slice off parts of the body and use it upgrade our fierce hero.

Every bad guy has its own unique type of attack, as well as a weakness you can exploit to gain the upper hand. For example, the skeleton heads will open up wide to spew magical attacks, but you can easily fight back by slashing its gooey center. The four-armed trolls, on the other hand, will make you counter their attacks and swipe the vulnerable areas. These fights are often quick and intense, especially if you haven't memorized their patterns yet.

Severed (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

While this seems relatively simple at first, the challenge comes when you are completely surrounded by four different types of enemies. Suddenly it becomes less about memorization and more about time management. You'll have to quickly switch between bad guys, countering their attacks and doing your best to take them out one by one. This task is made even more challenging as our foes grow stony armor and cast helpful spells.

All this may sound like it's too much for a lone one-armed woman to handle, but Sasha has this under control. She'll use the lobbed off legs, wings and eyeballs to improve performance and learn new abilities. We'll be able to stun the enemies for a short period of time, steal their magic buffs and even find a replacement arm for extra-powerful hits. And once you learn the patterns and get a rhythm going, there are times when it seems Sasha is unstoppable.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of times when even basic enemies will stop her journey dead in its tracks. It's common to run into an especially tricky group of baddies and die over and over again. These moments aren't fun, and can often feel woefully unfair. Thankfully, Severed has a solution to this problem. Much like Guacamelee, the map is large and full of hidden areas to explore and new paths to follow. Although it's presented in a first-person perspective, the game plays out like a traditional Metroidvania adventure game. Every time I felt stuck, I found a new direction to go that prepared me for the especially tough battles ahead.

Severed (PS Vita)Click For the Full Picture Archive

That said, there are times when the game's difficulty is due to the PS Vita's hardware. I found it to be a little too easy to accidentally switch directions in the middle of an especially heated fight. I also found that some of my swipes didn't register as intended, especially when trying to lob off body parts. While annoying, this is hardly a deal-breaker. And even if you die, you'll start over just a few steps away from where you were.

Although the mechanics are extremely simple, I didn't get to the point where it felt repetitive. There are enough wrinkles added to the fights to keep them interesting and successfully managing a tense battle can be incredibly satisfying. But if we're being honest, there were also times when I wanted to throw my PS Vita into a brick wall.

But as maddening as Severed can be, it also stuck with me long after I finished the game. I love the world DrinkBox Studios has created and the bizarre characters you meet along the way. It reminds me of the family-friendly adventure movies from my youth, like Willow, Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story. It can be frustrating at times and the PS Vita's touchscreen isn't always precise, but Severed is a journey worth taking.
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