Drinkbox Studio, the minds behind Guacamelee and Tales from Space: Mutant Blob Attacks, are taking a swing at making the touch controls for the PS Vita the centerpiece of their upcoming game Severed. In keeping with their previous titles, Severed is chock full of gorgeous visuals and addictive gameplay. Drinkbox caught me completely off guard with the darker tone and masterful use of the Vita’s touchscreen.

Some of the things I loved the most about their past games are the humor and the art style. The latter carries over wonderfully to Severed, but in this demo, the laughter was completely missing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. The atmosphere of the game is brooding, and set against what I can only describe as a psychedelic nightmare, it works beautifully. I’ll let the developers speak for themselves as they describe the game.

“Take control of a one-armed heroine wielding a living sword as she knits together pieces of her story from both the past and the future.”

Yup, works for me.

I started out playing the game as the main character wakes up with only a few violent flashes of what’s happened to her. Her left arm is missing from the elbow down. There’s a portrait of what could be her family, but no one else is in the room. Then you get a first look at the character as you stand in front of a mirror. That’s all you have to go on.

Out of the gate it’s all about exploration in the style of a classic first person dungeon crawler. You navigate the game world with the Vita’s analog sticks, using them to investigate each space before moving onto the next room. Interacting with objects is done by tapping or swiping the touchscreen.

The transition between wandering from room to room and your first foray into combat is surprisingly smooth. Enemy monsters take up the entire screen, but can also appear on either side of you. These situations force you swap between monsters while watching their swing timers to avoid attacks.

You swipe to swing your sword, swipe against an enemy attack to parry and avoid swiping when the enemy blocks. The simple controls make for surprisingly fun combat as each enemy attacks and becomes vulnerable in different patterns. Time your kills correctly, and you’re rewarded with extra monster parts to craft upgrades.

You’re literally severing and collecting limbs to make yourself more powerful. That’s payback.

Bosses have extra abilities that you can eventually steal and use for yourself. The difficulty ramped up fairly quickly for a demo and Drinkbox is still working out some of the monster patterns before the game’s finished. I’m confident they’ll get the pacing nailed down by the next I sit down with it.

What I took away from the session is this: the PS Vita is going to have another great game that puts the touchscreen to good use without gimmicks.

Keep an eye out for Severed later this summer, and check out some more screenshots in the gallery below.