Review – El Hijo: A Wild West Tale

The release of the surprisingly interesting Chicken Police: Paint it Red! put HandyGames, a THQ Nordic subsidiary, on the WTMG’s staff’s radar. We are always captivated by AA publishers releasing smaller yet creative titles, so I was eagerly awaiting for their next outing. This ended up being a cartoonish stealth game set in a wild west environment, called El Hijo.

El Hijo

Uncle Own and aunt Beru weren’t harmed this time around.

El Hijo starts off in a deceptive way: a little boy in a poncho enjoying his life with his mom. My Ori alert screamed at that moment, as if I was ready to witness another case of mothercide in a video game intro, but I ended up getting caught off-guard. A tragedy does strike, with a group of bandits setting the boy’s family house on fire, but without any motherly casualties. But for whatever reason, your mom decides to leave you at a monastery, thinking that you’ll be safer with a bunch of old monks instead of under the wing of your own family. This is how the game begins; you want to get the hell away from the monastery and find your mom.

The main selling point in El Hijo, at least according to its developers, is the fact that it’s a nonviolent take on the stealth genre. However, gameplay-wise, this doesn’t change things that much. You just need to pay attention to enemy movement patterns and use the world around you to get past them without ever getting caught. You can do this by walking in shadowy places (these enemies need glasses, let me tell you), solving small puzzles, and so on. If you get caught, you’re quickly respawned a few feet back, meaning that the stakes aren’t as high as one would expect.

El Hijo

My Ori alert went out for no reason.

Simply put, the main selling point is also one of the things that limit El Hijo‘s gameplay. You’re a kid, meaning that you’re hindered in what you can do in order to get past your enemies. There’s just so much the titular Hijo can pull off. The game is also slightly hindered by a few glitches and a confusing isometric perspective, but that’s nothing you can’t get used to after a while.

Even though the gameplay is just okay (at best), El Hijo makes up for it when it comes to its presentation. Its charming, borderline Steven Universe-ish visuals and character design are captivating. Plus, its soundtrack is clearly inspired by Ennio Morricone’s western masterpieces, with the same vibe and instrumentation. So thankfully, the game features enough visual and audio treats to keep you interested in it for longer periods of time, something the gameplay doesn’t manage to achieve.

These monks need glasses.

El Hijo is a fine stealth game. It does what it intended to offer, but besides its nice visuals and excellent Morricone-esque soundtrack, it does little to stand out over the dozens, maybe hundreds of much better stealth titles out there. If its nonviolent approach isn’t exactly something so important to you, then I’d recommend looking at its polar opposite in terms of color, violence. and vibe, A Plague Tale: Innocence, instead.

 

Graphics: 7.5

El Hijo features a unique and visually pleasing art style, but the limited color palette often clashes with the game’s isometric perspective.

Gameplay: 7.0

It’s a simple, occasionally undercooked stealth gameplay loop, that suffers a bit from a few glitches, perspective issues, and the overall limitations of what a child can do.

Sound: 8.5

El Hijo‘s Morricone-esque soundtrack is easily its main highlight, turning even the most mundane of stealth sections into something way more epic than it should be.

Fun Factor: 6.5

Looking at and listening to El Hijo is actually more interesting than playing it. It’s a decent stealth game, but it doesn’t add much in terms of mechanics.

Final Verdict: 7.0

El Hijo: A Wild West Tale is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of El Hijo: A Wild West Tale was provided by the publisher.