I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Drinkbox Studios to check out their follow up to Guacamelee, Severed, and in the interest of full disclosure, it’s fantastic.
First thing that I noticed about Severed is the art style, it’s gorgeous. It is very reminiscent of Guacamelee, sharing some of the same color palette and design while incorporating its own unique dreamscape architecture. Tonally, Severed is very different. Guacamelee had a irreverent tone which worked well within the context of that world, but Severed is thematically much darker. Afterall you play as a girl who just had her arm chopped off. The original score for the game from YAMANTANKA//SONIC TITAN and Pantayo also seeks to reinforce the mood set by the art and narrative–immersing the player even more into the already richly designed world.
Tone aside, where Severed really stands out is how it fuses multiple gameplay mechanics into one cohesive experience by taking advantage of PS Vita’s interface.
It is a first person touch based dungeon crawler with tons of explorative elements, environmental puzzles and combat. The explorative components remind me very much of early PC adventure games where you’d enter an area, look around, and have to really canvas each area to make sure you don’t miss anything. Severed nails this aspect of design while respecting your time, giving you bite sized collectibles while you traverse the world. Each section is small, but there is really so much to soak up. There is also a dash of the metroidvania gridded map design too, which is rad.
The 20 or so minute demo didn’t really bring me to many of the game’s puzzles, but I did experience a good amount of combat which calls back to my time with games like Infinity Blade and Fruit Ninja, for various reasons. The combat is all touch based and rewards you for playing smart, delicately and patiently. Attacking, countering and parrying all require you to strike with precision and reward you with energy for your Sever meter and body parts that allow you to upgrade the one-armed heroine. If you wish to play hastily you will not only detract from your own experience, you’ll have a much harder time leveling up.
I truly enjoyed the demo for Severed, but in conjunction with my time with it, I had a chance to sit down and have a brief conversation with Chris McQuinn, one of the designers at Drinkbox Studios about Severed and what is in store for the future of the studio.
Me:What made you (Drinkbox) want to go in this direction after doing something like Guacamelee?
Chris: We have been doing Guac for so long, we’ve made 48,000 versions of it, put it on 58 different platforms, that at some point you just need to do something different, right? Or you get stale as a studio and you get bored. And we wanted to do something far out in right field, or is it left field, I don’t know. We had a Game Jam 8 months ago and this was one of the ideas. Severed was one of the ideas that came up from it and we’re going with it.
Me: What is Drinkbox’s motivation to keep developing games for Vita?
Chris: There is a bunch of factors. One, we like our Vitas personally, it’s a good piece of hardware, it’s easy to work with, it’s a strong piece of hardware. As far as being a viable platform for us from a developer’s point of view, it’s very viable. The install base isn’t huge, it’s not small, but the thing about Vita owners which we’ve seen from our previous titles Mutant Blobs Attack and Guacamelee on the Vita is that they sell really well. So Vita owners buy video games, they are hardcore gamers and they buy video games. And so for us it’s a no brainer really.
Me: When can we expect to see Severed?
Chris: I don’t know. That’s not true, we want it out this Summer. So soon. We have all the levels made. We’re just now going back polishing, iterating and throwing in some new ideas, seeing what works, seeing what sucks, stuff like that.
Me: Is the plan to keep it on Vita or can we expect a PS4 release as well?
Chris: The nature of the game would make it difficult on the Playstation 4. The touch mechanic is a very underlying core mechanic and I think it’d be tough to make the transition. With that said the Vita is our focus right now, but in the future who knows, I think we will evaluate once we finally get it finished for the Vita.
Me: Where do you see Drinkbox going in the future, perhaps another Game Jam, or do you already have an idea of what you are going to do next?
Chris: I think a bunch of those things, right now we have another project we are working on internally, it’s at a very early stage. So that’s happening, Severed, I think we are going to keep on thinking of new ideas, and just pushing it a bit. I imagine with that said though we’ll probably come back eventually to some of our older games, you know. Will there be a Guacamelee 2 in the future, probably. I don’t know when, but we need a break from Guacamelee (laughter ensues). But will it be back in a few years, probably.
Me: Alright Chris thank you for taking to the time to speak with me and I hope the rest of your show goes well.
Chris: Same to you!
Fantastic folks over at Drinkbox Studios. Super passionate and really understand the Vita and its audience. We hope you are as excited for Severed as we are and be sure to stay glued to PSGamer for all things about Severed and PS Vita.