Handy Games recently released the Western-themed stealth game El Hijo: A Wild West Tale on Android and iOS devices.
Previously only available on PC and consoles, the game is now on mobile devices. I was curious how well this game would translate to my smartphone, so this review refers to my experiences with both the Xbox console versions and the mobile versions.
The game starts with a mother and her son living on what looks like a Western ranch. The father has passed away, as evidenced by a grave early in the game. The duo are then threatened in a bandit raid, so the mother sends the young boy off to a monastery for his own protection. Meanwhile, the mother gets captured.
For the first several levels, you play as the young boy. At first, all you can do is sneak around and hide. Early on you get rocks that you can use to distract guards and eventually a toy that causes a ton of noise as well as a slingshot. While the rocks have limited use, the slingshot can break objects. This will either clear a blocked path or again serve as a distraction for the guards.
Throughout the levels you also run into other children. These are basically bonus challenges. You often have to reach them through a branching path that you do not need to go down in order to progress through the level. Typically, these paths are a little more challenging. The game in general requires a decent amount of puzzle solving skills in the sense that you need to do x and y to reach z. Sometimes the number of steps required is more complicated.
While the level design in the game is fairly strong and clever, I cannot say the same of the enemies. How do I put this diplomatically? The AI in the game is not exactly bright. For one, they follow the same exact predictable path over and over again. This is forgivable since the game cares more about you solving the puzzle that is finding the correct path than tricking guards like you might in a game like Splinter Cell.
Enemies become suspicious if you get into their line of sight briefly. After a second or so in their direct view, they get placed on full alert and will chase you. However, sometimes they give up the chase the moment you step out of their sight. Other times they hilariously run into objects that impede their pursuit and they just give up.
On Xbox, the game allows you to survey the environment with the right bumper. To use the slingshot, you hold down the right trigger, aim with the left analog stick, and then fire with the A button. On mobile, the touchscreen offers an on-screen virtual analog stick and specific on-screen action buttons for running, crouching/hiding, and interacting with objects.
Although the game even feels slightly clunky on an Xbox controller, it is much more so on mobile with the virtual analog stick. Stealth games require precision, and that’s especially true in a non-violent game where you are playing as a defenseless child. The touch controls just do not work well enough for a satisfying gameplay experience. That’s less a critique of the developers and more a limitation of mobile devices.
I also tried to play the game with my Riot Pwr ESL Wired Game Controller for Android. It’s a plug-and-play controller solution for Android smartphones (there’s also an iOS model). The game plays well with the Riot Pwr ESL controller. It’s a big step up from the annoyingly imprecise touchscreen controls.
For the most part, the game performs well on mobile. It does stutter here and there, but the cut scenes are buttery smooth and look great on my Moto G Power. Shockingly, the game stutters here and there even on an Xbox Series X. Still, the issues are minor and do not greatly affect gameplay.
That being said, I could not get the game to work on my Lenovo Tab M10 Plus tablet, which stinks because it has a much larger screen than my phone. So if you have a budget tablet or smartphone, there’s a decent chance that this game is not supported. Of course, Google Play will let you know whether it is supported or not before you buy it.
El Hijo: A Wild West Tale is a fun and cute little indie stealth game. It has flaws like unintelligent AI as well as some stuttering issues here and there, but I did not encounter any major bugs. So that’s a plus.
Overall, I think it translates pretty well to mobile devices – at least if you use a controller to play. I cannot recommend this if you’re playing with just a touchscreen, especially since this is a premium game. For $9.99, you get the full experience without ads. Still, I preferred the experience on Xbox.
Game Freaks 365 received free review copies.