Yes, this is entirely a reaction to Gio's comment on yesterday's post.
I suspect there are many who aren't really familiar with...
Before we begin, I'd just like to have a patriotic moment in which I bring your attention to the number of awesome indie game developers which happen to be Canadian.
- Klei: Shank 2, Mark of the Ninja, Don't Starve, Invisible Inc
- Capybara Games: Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery EP, Critter Crunch, Super Time Force, Below
- Freebird Games: To The Moon
- Cellar Door Games: Rogue Legacy
- Tribute Games: Mercenary Kings
- Frima: Nun Attack, Chariot
- Queasy Games: Everyday Shooter
- Metanet: N, N+
- Polytron: Fez
- Red Hook: Darkest Dungeon (which will prove awesome, I suspect)...
|To appreciate Severed, you must first know what Guacamelee is.|
Less than a year later, they followed About A Blob up with Mutant Blobs Attack!!!
Mutant Blobs Attack fared better, critically, than its predecessor - it's a relatively simple platformer in which the player controls a sentient blob that grows ever larger as it eats items in the game world - but it was more a game on the cusp of brilliance than actually brilliant.
"If they keep this up, one can expect them to start making flat-out great games - but they're not quite there, yet. They're just pleasantly, comfortably close."Then, in 2013, Drinkbox released the game that, currently, defines the studio.
-from the Mutant Blobs Attack!!! review-
Guacamelee - a 2D platform/brawler Metroidvania - is incredible. We are lucky if, once per year, a game comes along that seizes us and keeps us coming back the way games did when we were kids, and Guacamelee is an exceptional piece of work from tip to tail. I probably played through it a dozen times, throughout 2013 and into 2014.
"The entire game looks like concept art in motion. It taps directly in to a gamer's desire to explore, to sniff out secrets, to gain strength and be rewarded for our efforts and climb ever-higher. Everything about Guacamelee is lovely. It is, in every moment, a pleasure - one of the most purely fun games I played in the past year - and the best PSN game of 2013."With Guacamelee, which went so far beyond anything they had done in the past, Drinkbox had its first bona fide crossover hit. After its release on PS3 and Vita, it would be ported to Windows, Mac, Linux, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One within the year - and everyone was salivating at the thought of Guacamelee 2: Juan's Jueturn.
-best of 2013 - PSN game-
Drinkbox, though, decided on something else. In the same way Klei abandoned 2D action-platformers when they moved from (the phenomenal) Mark of the Ninja to Don't Starve, Drinkbox struck out in an entirely new direction for their fourth game.
It would be a touch-controlled RPG. Like, touchscreen gesture-based. For smartphones and stuff.
|Swipe at the arms to chop them off!|
It would be absolutely nothing like Guacamelee, and when I saw its first trailer I literally said
"I know this is very Entitled-Gamer of me, but between Drinkbox and Klei, I'm getting tired of wonderful 2D action-platformer developers dropping one of my favourite genres and moving on. I want Guacamelee 2 and a spirtual sequel to Mark of the Ninja or Shank, damnit."I'm not alone, of course, and Drinkbox knows this. Their FAQ for Severed ends thusly:
-April 13, 2014-
|Actually, the entire Severed website is worth checking out.|
And, y'know, they have a point. And when I first saw Severed's trailer, I also said
"Okay, okay. I love you, Drinkbox. I'll check it out... if it ever comes to Vita."Well, it's coming to Vita, and I'm getting used to the idea. More and more, I'm liking the sound of it
-April 13, 2014-
You play as the nameless heroine, who lost her arm and perhaps her memory in an unexplained attack. Wielding nothing but determination and a living sword with a great reptilian eye in the guard, you set out to "knit together pieces of her story from the past and the future. Our heroine will embark on a journey through a surreal non-linear world using a gesture based combat mechanic to defeat enemies in this first person adventure. Unlock new abilities, discover secrets of the land, and grow in power as you master both offensive and defensive techniques. Let Severed be your mystery to unravel."
And the game is... beautiful and twisted. It is, to my Canadian eye, a very Canadian game. It doesn't blatantly use Native-style art, but it keeps some of the traits - the boldness of the lines, the psychedelic mix of colours, the romance of beauty in nature - while still feeling purely Drinkbox.
Here is Severed's first trailer, shown last summer before they'd locked down a platform.
I wish I could find a .gif of the trailer's final image - the close-up of her face, once she's donned her monstrous, living armor. The way her eyes (or are they the defeated creature's?) tremble and glisten with all that hideous power, barely contained and desperate to erupt from its cage.
|The heroine (later).|
And immediately - even with the looming sigh of touch controls hanging over it - there's a lot to love about Severed, just from that trailer.
A female hero, which we don't see nearly enough of in video gaming - though indies in general have certainly been doing their part, lately.
Gorgeous, surreal environments. Like Guacamelee, Severed doesn't look like any other game. You can't describe its environments using clichés because when you see it, none come to mind - it looks only like itself - totally unique, totally Drinkbox.
It's bright and beautiful, it's twisted and grotesque. It's a game that's "dark," but not traditionally so. It's not excessively violent or lurid or dripping in gore. It lacks the trappings of what we usually consider dark or mature in games in favour of meaningfully dark and mature emotions - the lost family, the abandoned/mutilated hero and the terrible strength she takes for herself on her quest.
Fantastic, otherworldly music. Yamantaka//Sonic Titan's sound is.... alien, modern and a little tribal, but it soars so high and so deep, emotionally - its spirit matches the game's romance, and its violence hammers home the terror of the heroine's trials and the thrill of her strength.
|Who wants to bet me this is the combat tutorial?|
C'maaan - any takers?
And really, what turned me off Severed in the first place was, just as Drinkbox pointed out, that it's not a sequel to Guacamelee. If one simply removes that (admittedly, entitled) argument from the equation, what we're left with is this:
There is a game in which you lose your arm - it goes running off - and you explore a gorgeous, romantic, unreal world in a first-person perspective and grow in power with a little eye-for-an-eye action, chopping body parts off boss monsters and wearing them like armor-trophies. That, alone, sound like a pretty cool game to me. Oh, and it's made by Drinkbox, one of the most talented indie studios in the world, whose games just get progressively better? Well... yeah.
Sign me up.
(But dude, it's got frickin' touch controls.)
Don't care anymore. Sign me up.