Originally released for PC back in December of 2020, El Hijo – A Wild West Tale is coming to consoles tomorrow (March 25th). I ended up missing out on the PC launch, but when I heard about the game’s console launch I was intrigued. While it is not my favorite genre, I have always enjoyed a good stealth game. That mixed with the game’s interesting art style and a more family friendly take on the stealth genre intrigued me. El Hijo – A Wild West Tale is a compelling twist on your typical stealth game adding in puzzle mechanics to create a satisfying stealth experience.
The story of El Hijo – A Wild West Tale begins with a mother and son working on their farm. Their farm is attacked and ransacked by bandits who burn it to the ground. In order to protect her son, the mother drops him off at a monastery while she goes off to try and get revenge on the bandits. The son doesn’t want to stay in the monastery though so he decides to sneak out and join his mother. Can the son save his mother while also avoiding the evil bandits?
Probably the best way to describe the gameplay of El Hijo – A Wild West Tale is to say that it is a non-violent stealth game. You play as a young boy, so unlike other stealth games you can’t knock out or kill enemies. The worst you can do is temporarily stun and confuse them. As you can’t attack enemies, the objective of the game is to make your way through the levels without being spotted. If you are spotted they will chase after you, and if they catch you the game returns you to your last checkpoint.
Instead of hurting the guards you need to outsmart them. All enemies in the game have the typical vision cone which you need to stay out of. They can’t see in the dark or behind objects so you need to hide behind objects or in the shadows until they give you an opportunity to sneak past them. In your journey you will also encounter a number of objects that you can pick up to distract or move enemies to locations that you desire. Your first tool is a slingshot and rocks which can make noise and get enemies attention. You will later get a toy that attracts enemies’ attention, a smoke bomb, and a firework that temporarily stuns enemies. These items (outside of the slingshot) are limited though so you need to use them wisely.
If you have ever played a stealth game before you probably already have a pretty good idea of what to expect from El Hijo – A Wild West Tale. Outside of not being able to kill/incapacitate enemies, many of the mechanics are very similar. If you are looking for a highly original stealth game, you probably won’t find it in this game. El Hijo – A Wild West Tale is still a very good game though.
In a way it feels like a different type of stealth game. In particular the game feels like a much more family friendly game than most stealth games. I wouldn’t say that it is a children’s game as it can still be quite challenging. I think it is a game that can be played by younger children than your typical stealth game though. The stealth is not particularly difficult most of the time especially if you play a lot of games from the genre. It is usually pretty obvious what you should do, and even if you are spotted you can sometimes get away from enemies. The enemies can also be kind of stupid at times as you can be right in their line of sight but slightly outside their cone of vision, and they won’t spot you. Basically reaching the end of each level is not that difficult.
One thing that makes the game a little more challenging though is that there is a sort of puzzle mechanic to the game. While there are situations where you have only one way of proceeding, the game actually gives you options quite a bit of the time. You can usually get past enemies in a couple of different ways, and there are even multiple paths at times.
This is key to the game as most of the levels have additional optional objectives beyond reaching the end of the level. Throughout most of the levels there are children that are being forced into work by the guards that you are trying to avoid. If you reach these kids you can interact with them in order to encourage them. Reaching some of these kids can be quite challenging which offsets some of the easier elements of the game. I don’t know if finding all of the kids actually unlocks anything, but I would highly recommend trying to as they reveal some of the best parts of the gameplay.
The gameplay of El Hijo – A Wild West Tale might not differ a lot from your typical stealth game, but I don’t think it really had to. The game succeeds because the gameplay is really satisfying. The mixture of stealth and puzzle mechanics work really well. The stealth mechanics basically become another tool used for the puzzles. In a way the game feels like it is almost as much of a puzzle game as a stealth game.
Another reason the game succeeds is that the level design is very good most of the time. Some of the levels are a little too straightforward. Most of the levels are quite clever though. I really appreciate that the game gives you multiple different ways of approaching level,s and some of the puzzles that you need to solve are quite clever and require several steps.
I would also like to commend the game’s overall visual style. It is kind of hard to explain, but I would say that feels a lot like a cell shaded game that blends cartoony and real-life elements. The visuals really help sell the game’s overall atmosphere. The game’s story is a little basic, but it is not bad either.
I would say that the biggest issue that I had with El Hijo – A Wild West Tale were the controls. The controls are pretty simple and to the point. They usually work as intended as well. There are times though where they don’t work as well as I would have liked. To interact with certain objects you need to be in a pretty precise area or the game otherwise won’t recognize your input. This usually just wastes some time, but it can create some real problems when you need to interact with something quickly so you don’t get caught. This isn’t a huge problem, but it does hurt the game at times.
As for the length I can only give a rough estimate. The game has around 30 levels which can vary between a couple minutes to 10-20 minutes for some of the more elaborate levels. The amount of time you get out of the game is really going to depend on how good you are at stealth games and whether you try to reach all of the kids in the levels. If you just focus on reaching the end of each level, I would guess that most players will take around five to six hours to beat the game. If you want to 100% the game though, I would guess that it would take closer to ten or so hours.
El Hijo – A Wild West Tale might not revolutionize the stealth genre, but it really didn’t have to. It succeeds because the gameplay works well and is compelling. The game eliminates the ability to kill/incapacitate enemies forcing you to avoid and distract them in order proceed. In a way this kind of plays like a puzzle game as there are usually a couple different ways of approaching a situation. Completing a level is usually not that difficult as the enemy AI is not always great. If you try to complete all of the additional objectives though the game gives you enough of a challenge. While the controls don’t always work as well as you would like, the gameplay is just really satisfying. This is all wrapped up in a good visual style and atmosphere.
If you aren’t really into stealth games or are more interested in really challenging games from the genre, El Hijo – A Wild West Tale probably won’t be for you. If the premise intrigues you or you are a fan of stealth games, I think you will really enjoy El Hijo – A Wild West Tale and should consider picking it up.
Buy El Hijo – A Wild West Tale online: PC
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Honig Studios, Quantumfrog, and HandyGames for the review copy of El Hijo – A Wild West Tale used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.