El Hijo is the latest indie stealth and adventure game developed by Honig and Quantum Frog Studios. Set in the old wild west, El Hijo focuses on the journey of a 6-year-old kid who has been separated from his mother and wishes to reunite. The game was released earlier this month on December 3 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Switch. We were privileged to be provided a review copy by HandyGames.
El Hijo Story
The game starts with a rather physiologically happy start; you see El Hijo learn new things from his mother and have a fun, upbeat vibe in a colorful village with tons of freedom. However, this changes when bandits burn down the entire farm, and El Hijo is left alone with his mother. Afterward, they try to escape and knowing that they would suffer a lot from the terrible future. El Hijo is handed to a monastery by his mother and left abandoned. This is a bit hard to disgust, and particularly sad when he’s separated. The game’s story is driven by emotions and pictures, which is fine because it’s fundamental to understand.
Later in the game, El Hijo understands that the religious community isn’t appropriate for him; accordingly, he chooses to get away and locate his lost mother. During this intend to get away and arrive at self-acknowledgment, the game takes you through a progression of bewildered and blissful interactivity, where you assume responsibility for El Hijo and guide him to his lost way.
The core gameplay of El Hijo is unique and diverse in its manners. It’s primary focus and in-depth gameplay is circled around exploration and stealth, mostly solving puzzles to go through large maps. As a player, your job will guide El Hijo, escaping the monastery and staying out of sight from the monks, who will catch you. The monks have an arc-like sight that can be seen as yellow. Usually, it’s not easy to see their range; however, El Hijo, during the start of the game, is gifted with a parrot that can be controlled to check access points and explore the maps.
The basic controls of the game are relatively straightforward; there are no extra or complex buttons. As you would have expected, movement is from WASD, Space to crouch and hide behind materials, 1-4 to equip things like Rocks or Toys that can be used to distract the monks.
The maps are rudimentary to explore at the start, but as you progress, they become huge, instead of being a walk in a park. The majority of them turn out to be puzzles and maze that require tackling to escape. The monks are everywhere, and there are no shortcuts to escaping them. You can either hide behind materials, throw stones to distract them or run while they don’t see you. All maps are dense and well designed; there was always a purpose and idea behind them. The movement is fancy; there isn’t a lot to it. You have a stamina meter that runs out pretty quickly, which is understandable because El Hijo is only 6. One thing that had a somewhat different impact on me was the general perception of the game. El Hijo has no violence in its entire gameplay, which sounds amusing at first, but all puzzles are solved through playness and adequate actions that don’t hurt anybody.
I generally enjoyed the gameplay; it was quite stealthy and required a lot of figuring. However, I must say that it had me frustrated with how difficult it was. Playing the game for 9 hours, I could only inspire half of the childs available in the game. The problem I faced was that maps were big, and in some cases escaping the monks was impossible. One thing worth noting is that I’m not a pro indie player, so maybe that counts. Moreover, some missions weren’t guided well; there was an absence of motivation and apathy to finish some of them. It took me a while to understand the concept behind inspiring children’s inside the monastery.
Graphics, Cinematics, and Sound
One thing that I’ve adored about El Hijo’s gameplay were graphics. The art was just beyond imagination, and it fitted well in its Wild West setting. Further, I also want to acknowledge the vibrance of the maps and character models. I’ve to admit that I always use Nvidia Ansel, but this game didn’t require any enhancements. El Hijo is relatively focused more on gameplay, so there weren’t any graphics or customization options in the main menu.
Cinematics were once again spot-on; they had tons of inspirations from the art, and most stories were explained in anime like structure. The gameplay lacked many sounds whenever you failed to escape and were captured by the monk. There was no sound, and bizarre commotions like “Aha” came that didn’t fit well. It would have been better if the gameplay had a variety of sounds when getting captured. Other than that I think a game that depends such a great amount on its story ought to have captions. Nonetheless, the overall sound package wasn’t something that would discourage a new buyer. The OST and map music was marginally better, however.
El Hijo is a well designed and adequately themed Indie stealth title that relies a lot on its lost longing and emotional story. Its core mechanics are driven by stealth and large maps that often seem like a maze but with a purpose and idea behind them. The entire game brings many positive vibes; that’s also because its story is quite purposeful, and there is no violence in the whole game. Suppose you are looking to give yourself a tough time and tremble around meaningful puzzles that require a lot of focus. El Hijo is a wise choice.
Exputer Rating: 4/5.