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Game Day: Severed

Severed is a dungeon adventure game for iOS from DrinkBox Studios that originally debuted on the PS Vita and will be available later this Summer on the Wii U and 3DS. The game tells the story of a one-armed warrior named Sasha in search of her family in a strange world populated by monstrous creatures.

The move to bring Severed to iOS is a new beginning for DrinkBox Studios, which published its prior mobile titles on PS Vita. But with the Vita in decline, DrinkBox has moved on. In an interview with Engadget, the Toronto-based company announced that it is finished with the Vita. That's a shame because I love my PS Vita and DrinkBox's Guacamelee! was one of my favorite Vita games, but Sony's loss is Apple's gain.

Severed, described by its creators as an RPG-light adventure, is a visually arresting journey through a bizzare landscape. The unique artwork style will be immediately recognizable to anyone who has played Guacamelee!, while still creating an atmosphere and look of its own. Sasha, the main character, has just one weapon, a sword given to her by a mysterious figure at the outset of her quest. As you encounter enemies, you attack with slashing touch gestures reminiscent of Fruit Ninja and block counterattacks by swiping along the course of incoming blows. Early in the game you are confronted by single enemies. Things get more complicated as you advance and have to defeat multiple foes that are better at defending themselves.

But there's more to Severed than just frantic slashing. There's a strategic element too. During the course of a battle, Sasha's 'focus bar' slowly fills. Kill an opponent when Sasha's focus bar is full and you can sever its limbs. It sounds more gruesome than it actually is. Collect enough limbs and you can trade them for armor, equipment, and other upgrades. As a result, it doesn't pay to simply kill a monster as fast as possible, which adds depth to the battles.

There are two levels of play – 'casual' and 'standard.' Severed can be intense and absorbing in standard mode, which makes casual mode a nice option if you would rather play a more relaxed game, soaking in the visuals and soundtrack.

The touch-based gestures of Severed are outstanding on iOS. The game is a Universal app, so you can play it on an iPhone or iPad, but it really shines on the iPad, especially an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil. Suddenly, that Apple Pencil that you may use to take notes or sketch becomes Sasha's sword. Using the Apple Pencil this way adds immeasurably to the fun.

I'll be playing Severed a lot more as I sit by the shore of Lake Michigan for a mini-vacation this weekend. Severed is expensive as iOS games go, but at less than half the price you'd pay for the PS Vita version, you get a game that fits with the iPhone and iPad hardware in a way that it can't on the Vita. Sure, the Vita has a touch surface, but it's still designed primarily for button-based games, while the large touch surfaces of iOS devices make it easier to get lost in Severed's action and story.

Severed is available on the App Store for $6.99.

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