Drinkbox Studios is perhaps best known for its beloved, rather cheeky lucha-themed exploration platformer, Guacamelee: Super Turbo Championship Edition, which hit the Wii U eShop in July 2014. We rather dug it in our review, but it's been two years now and we're itching for something new from these talented folks. That gives us quite high hopes for the studio's next title, announced at E3 for Wii U and 3DS: SEVERED.
SEVERED is a first-person dungeon crawler with RPG elements and touch-based controls. Players take control of a one-armed heroine named Sasha on her journey through a nightmare world in search of her family. Sasha is armed (heh) with a living sword with which she can royally muck up her enemies via well-placed swipes.
Formerly thought to be a PlayStation Vita exclusive upon its release in April, we now all have egg on our faces (yes, even you) after Drinkbox revealed that the swipe-'em-up will indeed be coming to both the Wii U and 3DS eShop this Summer. Oh, and the game is cross-buy across platforms, too - buy one version and the other is included. Our good pals over at Push Square have played the game to bits already, and we're excited to get our styli a-swipin' upon release this summer.
We caught a few words with Graham Smith, Drinkbox co-founder and producer on SEVERED, about what awaits.
Up until SEVERED, DrinkBox had a streak of 2D platformers going - Guacamelee, About a Blob, and Mutant Blobs Attack. What prompted the switch to a touch-based, first-person dungeon crawler? How did you land on this specific type of game?
Around the time that we were wrapping up development on Guacamelee STCE the team was really feeling "platformer fatigue"™ and really wanted to work on something different. So, we split up the team and held an internal game jam to try out some new ideas. Severed had previously been pitched in the form of a Flash animation by our concept lead Augusto Quijano, and was one of the ideas explored during the game jam. We were really happy with how it turned out, so we decided to pursue it for our next project.
Tell us about the nightmare world that main character Sasha has to contend with. What's going on there? What themes does the story explore?
After Sasha experiences a traumatic event, she wakes up in an unfamiliar place and sets off in search of her family. It's a bright, colorful, surreal world, full of aggressive monsters and helpful creatures.
The story of Severed explores themes of family, determination, and death. Sasha experiences some unexpected set-backs on her quest, but is determined to save her family, and never gives up hope.
It has a very bold and colorful artistic style. How would you describe it? What are its key influences?
Severed explores some dark themes in its story, and we wanted to create visuals in stark contrast to this. It's also in-line with the bright and colorful style that Drinkbox is known for from our previous games.
Touch and motion controls can sometimes be a tough sell to people. During development, was there any concern that the touch controls would be seen as a gimmick?
Yes, this was definitely a concern, and every time we released a new trailer or gameplay footage we saw this reaction in the comments. Some people seem to be really turned off by the idea of a game that uses touch as a primary input method, likely because they associate this input method with "gimmicky" or "casual" games.
With Severed, the theory was that using the touch screen would allow us to design challenging and precision-based sword combat, something that simply would not be possible using buttons alone. When we began showing demos of Severed to the public, we saw that even the most skeptical players warmed to the idea of touch based combat once they were able to try the game out themselves. We even saw people who had played the demo coming to our defense in the comments sections, saying that they used to be skeptical but were now believers in the game.
SEVERED was previously released on Vita. What differences, if any, do you perceive between the Wii U/3DS audiences and the Vita audience? Are there elements of Severed that you might anticipate hitting harder among the different audiences?
My perception of the Vita audience is that they are a slightly older and possibly more hardcore audience than that of the Wii U / Nintendo 3DS. Personally, I enjoy playing games on each of these platforms for different reasons.
I think that all of these audiences appreciate well-crafted games though, and I hope Severed fits this description for players on all of these platforms.
This is one of the few eShop games that is cross-buy compatible. How was the process of sorting that out? How did you succeed here where others may not have?
Nintendo was very helpful when it came to supporting cross-buy for Severed, and we didn't actually have to do much on our end to support the feature. All that is required is that the purchaser be signed in with their Nintendo Network ID (NNID) when buying Severed. As long as they do this, they will be able to download Severed to their other device(s) when signed in with that same NNID.
Big thanks to Graham for his time.