When people speak about spaghetti westerns, the first thing that I think of is The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, one of the most iconic movies of all time with Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach. You get the sound of the mariachi music, the intense shootouts between bandits and the anti-heroes. There are the dusty desert towns with even the old-style saloons and horse chases through the area, and let’s not forget the ole’ horrific dialogue that presents itself through it all. But do you know what doesn’t scream to mind about a spaghetti western? A mischievous child sneaking around past scarecrows, monks, thieves, and even the long arm of the law to find his mother. However, thanks to developers Honig Studios and Quantumfrog along with publisher Handy Games, I am very pleased to state that El Hijo: A Wild West Tale is a non-violent stealth game that has changed my mind about how I perceive spaghetti westerns.
El Hijo: A Wild West Tale is the first-ever stealth game that I have ever had the pleasure of playing where there is no actual combat to play out. To succeed in this game, you must use your most important weapon of all time, your brain. Along with this, you must also use your agility and a slew of distraction techniques that you obtain throughout this game to succeed going unnoticed by your surroundings.
I should state that for myself, this game is more of a puzzle adventure than a stealth game. Your path is not always so easy, so you have to think about what you want to do, how to do it, and when to act upon your ideas so that the adults don’t capture you. If they do, then they will put you back into your room or somewhere worse and you get the pleasure of starting the level over.
In El Hijo: A Wild West Tale, you play as the son and unlikely the hero Hijo. As the game begins, you follow your mom around your ranch. First, you visit a grave and lay a flower on it. Then you walk through a little crop which gives you the first chance of sneaking. By following your mother, you learn the starting techniques of sneaking past a couple of scarecrows, then you visit some birds. The birds give you an opportunity to see the whole field of range, so you can see where the outlines are of the guards and the path they view. This technique is very valuable as you progress.
Then you also learn that if you are creeping through the shadows and you get into the light you can be easily caught. Once you return home after your morning play, bandits have set fire to your home. Your mother becomes enraged with anger and seeks vengeance, but before that, she gives you over to the local monks to be watched over. Then off she goes on her journey to be captured and taken prisoner. Now you must escape your imprisonment and seek out your mother.
There’s no voice acting in this game for dialogue or narrative, so you are drawn into this wonderful world first off by the breathtaking cell animation. The picturesque views and shading make this game so inviting. From the first time you try to escape your room in the monastery to further adventures down the questline, the graphical art design never fails to keep you from not looking around. The other big draw for me was the musical score. You get that old west vibe from the moment the game starts. The acoustic guitar strings ring in your ears as the rhythm of the western genre floods your earlobes. I must admit that I felt like I was listening to the soundtrack of the movie Desperado at times.
Now I will have to say for me, the one issue that I did have was with the gameplay controls at times. Playing on PC, the direction that I wanted to move Hijo in wasn’t as fluid as I wished it was. There are a lot of different angles that you are tasked with moving by using the WSAD keys. The controls didn’t do the game much justice in staying on the right path. I would end up in too much light or I would accidentally hit a pan on the ground which caused me to get noticed. With that being said, the game does include a ton of checkpoints so if and when I got caught, I didn’t have to start from the very beginning.
Another thing that helps with the indirect controlling of Hijo is that the spotters do give you a grace period so if you are spotted, they don’t notice you right away. Also if you somehow can get to a shadowy area when you are spotted, then I would say 75% of the time they won’t notice you, even if you’re right in front of them. Now even with these things to help you out, do not mistake this game for being an easy beat. The levels are daunting as the game progresses and the guards become more focused and even start having more advanced patrol paths. Hijo always needs to be on his toes and never think that he will go unnoticed no matter what.
El Hijo: A Wild West Tale is by far one of the most refreshing and enjoyable games that I have ever played where I didn’t have to hurt or kill anyone. You get to play this mischievous kid who is sneaking and outsmarting all the adults around him to find his mother. The game is by far one of the most rewarding games that I’ve gotten the pleasure to play thanks to the graphics and masterfully well played musical tones. I feel as though this game has a lot to offer for any age, in fact, I even got my 10-year-old to play it and it has become one of her new favorite games to dive into. El Hijo: A Wild West Tale is a game that makes you kind of feel like being a kid again and now when I start it up, I have to quote one of my favorite lines of all time, “I aim to misbehave.” – Mal Reynolds.
El Hijo: A Wild West Tale for the PC is an unbelievable non-violent stealth game that draws you in with the idea of adventure and keeps you entwined with the visual and audio masterpiece of a spaghetti western. El Hijo: A Wild West Tale is available on Steam now for $19.99. It will also be made available on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Stadia soon.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of El Hijo: A Wild West Tale for the PC provided by HandyGames and Honig Studios.