Developer: Honig Studios, Quantumfrog
Genre: Stealth, Western
Platform: PC (Steam)
Age Rating: N/A
Release Date: 03/12/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
El Hijo’s steam page immediately attracted my interest thanks to its gorgeous art style and promise of a “spaghetti-western stealth game”. Is El Hijo as good as it looks? Find out in this Rapid Review.
Whilst most of the focus is on gameplay rather than narrative, El Hijo has a simple story which works well and provides meaning for your action. I played as a son (suitably translated to El Hijo in Spanish) on his mission to reunite with his mother. During this quest, I had to traverse thirty levels varying in location and size whilst avoiding the glance of the various enemies I encountered upon my journey. As mentioned before, the game describes itself as a “spaghetti-western” so expect every Western trope you can imagine: cacti-scattered deserts, gun-toting sheriffs and even a moving locomotive which houses one of my favourite levels.
A Storybook Style
El Hijo’s ‘spaghetti western’ design is excellently portrayed with each level looking beautiful thanks to the hand-drawn look. The use of colour is superb with most of the game consisting of desert-like oranges which greatly contrast and complement the dark blue shadows. It is incredibly clear that each level has had genuine effort poured into its vivid design which makes the environments a joy to explore. In my eye, a game’s art is truly brilliant when a screenshot from any moment of the game can be proudly displayed as a desktop wallpaper. This is most certainly the case with El Hijo. On par with the fantastic visuals, the music here is also great with classic Western strings providing a bright yet stealthy backdrop to the action.
From A To B
The gameplay in El Hijo is standard stealth fare; reach point B, starting at point A. Of course, it’s not just a case of wandering through the level so various tables, cacti, minecarts and more offer great hiding spots away from the enemies on the lookout. By holding down the middle mouse button, I could briefly see the enemy’s sightlines as well as a wider view of the world around me. This allowed me to plan my route, tactically dodging enemies.
Whilst most of the levels are linear in approach, each area contains imprisoned children that need releasing. Freeing your fellow children causes them to be ‘inspired’ and a unique sweet animation plays and a new checkpoint is stored. Whilst I didn’t free all the children, doing these small quests offered a side route off the beaten track with trickier adversaries in my path. The game opts for non-violence where capturing means a gun fired to the air or a comedic bear hug before a blackout and quick restart to the latest checkpoint. I enjoyed the more laid back feel to El Hijo compared to other violent stealth titles.
Tricks Up Its Sleeve
Like any stealth game, there are some handy tools to distract and sneak past those standing in your path. From wind-up toy soldiers to a basic slingshot, all of these tools take on a childlike charm. These various abilities behaved exactly how I imagined them too. For example, the slingshot can smash ornaments, attracting the interest of those standing nearby.
Surprisingly enough one of the most useful abilities was the power to run. The enemy A.I was the most disappointing part of the game as there were quite a few moments when I could run past the enemies; initiating a chase. Unfortunately, these chases weren’t too tense as in mere seconds the enemies would forget about the child who just ran past them and travel back to their starting location. This issue isn’t game-breaking and it’s actually up to the player if they choose to exploit the running evasion. As for me, by not running, I tried to experience the game the way it was intended by using the other abilities.
El Hijo is a true indie gem with visuals, music and design full of passion. Whilst the enemy A.I can be at times disappointing, the sheer love poured into this game by the developers is clear and made my eight-hour experience a joy to play.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.