You wake up in a strange world. Your family is gone. You’re missing an arm. And a shadowy creature tells you that you have to find your family if you ever want to return home. What do you do?
If you’re Sasha, the heroine of “Severed,” you take the living sword the shadowy creature is offering and go out to fight some monsters. You may have lost an arm, but by the end of the day, most of those in your path will have too.
The controls to “Severed” are simple, relying on the joystick to move and the stylus to interact with objects and attack. Yet it works with that well, using a first-person perspective and a simple but effective map to let you navigate through an expansive world. There are brief instructions or tutorials, but most of the learning is done through experience.
You have to use your head and instincts simultaneously in many parts. For instance, early on there are some clay pots in an empty room - anyone who’s played a “Zelda” game knows that those are things in need of smashing, as there may be valuable items inside. Not too long after, though, and a few pots begin spraying poison when shattered. It doesn’t take long to figure out which ones are safe to break and which contain deadly toxins, but it plays on the gamer’s instinct and makes you think.
Combat is done almost entirely with the stylus, swiping across the screen to slash at openings and deflect attacks. You may prefer to land multiple light hits in a row, or swipe wide for a longer, more powerful slash. Guarding is done via deflection, requiring a precise swipe to knock an oncoming blow away (although I found deflecting blows coming from the right were a lot easier to deflect than those from the left).
But what makes the combat noteworthy is the rhythm to the battles. Each creature has less of a pattern and more of a beat; you’ll learn how long you can attack before it changes its guard from this beat - slash slash wait, slash slash wait. Attacking a guarding foe does you more harm than good, so the rhythmic pacing of combat adds a unique flavor to the game. In combat against multiple foes, you’ll have to watch their gauges to see how close they are to attacking, and pace out your strikes and rotations against each accordingly.
The art style of the game is unique; it’s 2D, and rather flat and linear, but uses perspective and shadowing just right to provide some great depth to each scene. The environment really does feel like a strange world, filled with bizarre and dangerous creatures, which you slowly learn more about as you progress. Of course, the soundtrack helps set the environment nicely, providing an ominous but catchy tone.
Overall, “Severed” is very enjoyable. It’s unique, features a good learning curve, and creates a dark but intriguing world for the players to explore. If you have 15 bucks to spare, and like the idea of chopping off monster limbs, then give it a look.