With his life turned upside down after he’s being left in an orphanage, El Hijo escapes and embarks on a journey to reunite with his mom and uncover what’s going on with the shady folks that burned down their house. This beautifully animated game from Honig Studios and Quantumfrog brings a non-violent stealth adventure, showing us the shenanigans of this small (but brave) kid and a really, really deep and dark plot, with gameplay mechanics that accompany the overwhelming tension you constantly feel as the story develops.
The mechanics are, as usual with any stealth game, easy to understand but difficult to master. El Hijo plays a lot with how light interacts with your character and the field of vision of every enemy. You can also hide behind or below several kinds of obstacles and tables, and even jump into giant vases or mining carts. Later in the game, you get access to a huge Sombrero that serves as a place to hide in the spot if you’re quick enough, a la Toy Story 2 with the traffic cones (I’m old, let me be).
As the equipment you will use to proceed on every level, you will unlock four kinds of items that will help you in various ways over the game as you progress. First and foremost is your ever-reliable slingshot, which never runs out of stones to throw. You can use it to hit surfaces and attract enemies with the sound, and also break locks and lamps, rendering places totally dark for you to proceed, opening windows, or even liberating slaves that can help you to advance. The three remaining are consumable items, such as a wind-up toy that attracts enemies with its sound, a cactus flower that generates a cloud for you to hide, and my favourite, fireworks, which stun enemies and break fragile objects that may obstacle your way.
It’s natural, you know?
All these mechanics and equipment never feel forced on you, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. They’re added to the game at an adequate pace, so you get enough time to familiarize yourself with the ones you already have, and that helps you to be creative at the moment of clear a level since there are always multiple approaches. There are a few missions where we will control another character that comes with some tweaks, but that’s on the spoiler realm, so that’s all I’m gonna say about it.
The story begins as simple as a tale of revenge can be. After their house is burned, the mom leaves the kid in the care of some priests in a monastery nearby and goes alone to the bandits’ lair, finding a lot of dynamite and blowing it up. But it’s after the kid sets on his journey to reunite with the mom when the plot thickens. A really dark story full of sinister folks, shootouts, and child slavery unfolds as the kid’s story does, and it’s within that violent conspiracy where El Hijo operates, harmlessly trying to save the person that he loves the most.
[Reviewed on PC]