If someone told you about a new dark-toned dungeon-crawler, you probably wouldn’t think it was for iOS. Apple’s mobile games have generally leaned towards the bright and simplistic””the fun mini-game you might play in a waiting room””so it’s rare to find an iOS title with a heavy story to tell. With Severed, Toronto-based Drink Box Studios has cut away at the stereotype that mobile games are just for candy and cartoons.
You play as Sasha, a teenaged warrior whose family has been captured by a monstrous dragon. Maimed and missing her left arm, Sasha must voyage through the dragon’s realm and retrieve her brother, father, and mother in order to return home. Judging by Sasha’s demonic sword and the monster who charges her with this task, it’s easy to guess this game won’t end with a happy family reunion.
Since rescuing Sasha’s family is the primary objective, Severed doesn’t last more than a few hours from start to finish. If you’re determined to get the 100% completion achievement, you might get 7 or 8 hours out of it, but otherwise, the game could be beaten in an afternoon. This plays on the iOS strengths as a low-commitment system, but with only 2 difficulty settings the game’s replay value could do better. The major differences between “Casual” and “Standard” modes are stats, and once you understand how each enemy works, they go down easily enough.
The game’s mechanics are very easy to learn since they’re all based on either tapping or swiping your finger(s) on the screen. Most of the enemies are a breeze to defeat one-on-one, but the challenge comes when you’re faced with 4-6 monsters at once. The trick is to prioritize your targets based on their speed and rate of attack. Enemies like the one-eyed tree creatures (sorry, they don’t introduce themselves) take lots of time to attack you, but their attacks continue perpetually, so it’s best to get them out of the way first. The strong-armed enemies and the rare mini-dragons should be parried before they can strike, and the dozen-eyed stickmen can be handled with the occasional slice. If you can avoid missing these enemies, you can definitely handle the occasional hit from all the others. As long as you can swipe like a madman, you can’t lose.
Aside from the combat, what really makes Severed stand out is the art. The game looks like it was painted in broad strokes, with the same slashes Sasha uses to (literally) tear her enemies to pieces. The world seems like a diverse landscape slowly getting consumed by the dragon’s fleshy influence, meshing well with the enemies and items even with their wide range of colors. While the band YAMANTAKA / / SONIC TITAN offers some decent stage music, what really matches Severed’s dark tone are the sound effects. Every health-building heart and mana-growing brain must be eaten piece by piece, and the game doesn’t shy away from the squishiness. Like the weapons and armor Sasha gains on her journey, every boost reminds you of how monstrous you’re becoming.
Overall, Severed is a pleasant relief from the happy-peppy puzzle games that seem to dominate the iOS market. While the game can be disturbing at times””maybe even upsetting to some””its overlapping theme is definitely worth noticing. Throughout her journey, Sasha encounters friends and enemies who have also suffered loss; some turn their sadness into rage, some covet the remnants of the past, and some decide to just move on with their lives. As Sasha prepares for the final showdown with the dragon, she discovers an important fact of life: there’s a difference between losing something physically, and losing something for good.