Few games built with the intent of mobile release manage to surprise the way Severed did when it launched for PS Vita and then, later last year, to a much wider audience on Wii U, 3DS, and iOS. A far cry from the city building, match-3 stylings we see stuffed end to end in the App Store, Severed manages to prove its monetary worth even on mobile the moment you open the game and are met with its gruesome, yet pleasing art style. Given the Nintendo Switch touchscreen, it was only natural for Severed to make its way to one more console that could accommodate it, especially with the Wii U as good as out of the picture. Though the Switch bogs Severed down just a touch with its quirks as a device, DrinkBox Studios’ brief adventure is still one of the best mobile titles out there and deserving of all its 2016 accolades.
You play as Sasha, a young woman who has just emerged from a conflict that left her house destroyed, her parents and young brother missing, and one of her arms severed. A Death-like figure appears and instructs her to find her lost family members and bring them back to the house in order to free herself from this nightmarish world, and gifts her with a living sword. Sasha must slash her way through a host of terrifying demons to find those family members, and though dungeon exploration and a bit of puzzle solving play a role in Severed, it’s the slashing gameplay that truly makes this game shine.
Using the touchscreen, you’ll need to use one of several different types of slashing attacks on the monsters you encounter, which can appear in groups of up to four and surround you, forcing you to constantly shift your view left and right to see your foes, anticipate their attacks, and counter properly. Though I won’t go into too much depth for a 2016 title, I can’t praise this gameplay enough.
Severed is one of a select few games that I feel has embraced the capabilities of a touch screen in a unique and enjoyable way, especially considering the way the game constantly throws new types of attacks, abilities, monsters, and counters at you. DrinkBox Studios has truly mastered the pacing of its changes, so by the time you reach the game’s final challenge, the delicate balance of “difficult challenge” and “surmountable obstacle” has been perfectly set up. There’s a Casual Mode, though, if you find the battles at any stage too difficult, and you can switch between them at will as you play through. That said, given that the game deposits you right before your failure when you die, there’s little incentive to turn down the heat.Severed was an amazing game in 2016, and it continues to be phenomenal in 2017.
As much as I love the battles, the Nintendo Switch presents one unfortunate flaw to this equation, and honestly, it’s not one I ever saw coming. The console is too heavy. Severed must be played in handheld mode, and it’s recommended that you hold the console with your non-dominant hand and slash with your dominant one. Though Severed is not a long game, it does take a few hours to work through (longer if you pursue its hidden secrets), and after about 30 minutes my left hand holding the console was starting to feel it. I’ve never thought of the Switch as a heavy piece of equipment, but when you can’t find a comfy way to prop it up in one hand, it can get frustrating. I can only imagine what the folks who played this on the Wii U went through.
It’s also rather unfortunate that the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have, nor is it likely to have anytime soon, a proper achievements system, as plumbing Severed’s hidden depths reveals unexpected extra lore and challenge. In-game achievements are fine and dandy, but it’s still frustrating that a console in 2017 lacks this integration.
Severed was an amazing game in 2016, and it continues to be phenomenal in 2017 on the Nintendo Switch despite the weightiness of the system. I’m not sure I’d advocate the Switch as the platform to play this on if the lighter iOS or 3DS are options, but I also must admit that the larger screen space the Switch offered proved advantageous to fully embrace the stylistic goodness involved in the game’s environmental design. If you missed Severed last year, this is but one more ripe opportunity to savor last year’s best mobile release.
Severed loses little, if anything, by coming to Nintendo Switch. It gains screen space for the player to bask in its incredible, artistic environments, and though the console can be heavy to hold one-handed for longer play sessions, that’s hardly a reason to stay away from this title. Given its brevity, you may dismiss Severed as a game for a rainy, bored day, but don’t. This is one of only a handful of must-plays in the Nintendo Switch library.