El Hijo: A Wild West Tale (PC) Review

By Sam Rogers 18.03.2021

Review for El Hijo: A Wild West Tale on PC

If El Hijo could be described in one word, it would be charming. From its painterly cutscenes and textures, to its low poly style, minimal voice acting, and even down to the collectables - saddened orphans spread throughout levels that the protagonist attempts to cheer up, teaching them how to juggle or play tic-tac-toe - El Hijo is charming.

El Hijo starts off as idyllic as a Spaghetti Western could, a mother and her son living on their farm before it is burnt down by bandits, forcing the son into a Christian orphanage, and the mother to chase after the bandits on her own. All the story is played out through cutscenes devoid of dialogue and environmental storytelling, echoing the artistic choices of Western movies - a look is worth as much as a thousand words. It also allows players to explore as much (or as little) of the story as they wish. A lovely story it is, too, with twists and turns expected from a Spaghetti Western-influenced game, full of dubious monks, underhand dealings, and, of course, a big train chase.

Even though El Hijo is a stealth game, there is no rootin', tootin', or shootin'. All the gameplay revolves around avoiding enemies and misdirection, using shadows to avoid sightlines, slinking behind crates, and jumping into pots, minecarts and even coffins.

Children's toys are soon introduced as a means of distraction to help the characters slip past - a slingshot to break pots, cactus spore pods to obscure sightlines - and all of these are simple to use. El Hijo takes a lot of the possible frustration out of the stealthing aspect, clearly showing enemies' line of sight or how far a sound made will travel, and this, partnered with frequent checkpoints, creates a much more forgiving and even relaxing stealthing experience.

Screenshot for El Hijo: A Wild West Tale on PC

The downside to this sort of design is that stealth is treated with the same black or white win scenario as a puzzle, often having a correct solution for getting through. In one instance, there is an unmoving guard whistling to himself. Breaking a pot will not catch their attention with noise and their sightline is too awkward to use a windup soldier, so the only option is to use a spore pod to obscure their line of sight to pass. Another section has the boy needing to pull a lever to change the direction of a minecart to escape, but again it is watched by an unmoving guard. With places too high to distract or throw a spore pod, the character must break the lamp hanging over them in order to sneak through the shadows to progress.

Now, this isn't too bad. The levels are littered with puzzles, most of which feel well designed and rewarding when figured out. For instance, with the lever-pulling puzzle previously mentioned, there's still pathfinding, sneaking and some problem solving involved, all of which feel rewarding to figure out and complete - but there is just no exploration in terms of solutions, only figuring out the correct path and the correct answer. Some of the side paths that house the dejected orphans have some of the harder puzzles, which tend to require quick fingers or good use of toys, and these ones feel particularly rewarding to complete, punctuated by the laughter of children. It really does make some of these puzzles feel incredibly fun.

The problem with the game really is with how the stealth mechanics work. The main characters are able to avoid detection even inches away from a patrolling monk or an angry bandit as long as they are in the shade, and can completely evade a chase by climbing a little too far up a ladder. It feels easy to be able to 'cheat' some of these stealth heavier sections by sprinting into deep shade or up a ladder to dodge any of the game's enemies. For some, this might not be a problem, and could even be a welcome addition to be able to easily run past guards, but for others, it could easily take away from the stealthing action that some players would be specifically coming to the game for.

Screenshot for El Hijo: A Wild West Tale on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

El Hijo is certainly a lovely experience. It has gorgeous visuals, as much storytelling as a player wishes to see, smart puzzles, and some of the more frustrating aspects of stealth games are given features to make it more palatable to a larger audience. Sadly, though, these features dumb down the stealthing side to an extent and take away the dynamic feeling of many others of the genre, leaving players coming for a stealth heavy game wanting more.

Developer

Honig Studios, Quantumfrog

Publisher

HandyGames

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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