Have you heard of the saying “The amendment is worse than the sonnet”? It is not just for music but also for electronic games. El Hijo drew worldwide attention when he won Gamescom’s best independent game award in 2019; from the first images, with a cartoonish look, he captivated mainly by having the Old West as a backdrop.
With the launch in early December, we were able to play it. A furtive adventure, which has as main characters a mother and a son trying to survive in the midst of an increasingly relevant problem: child labor.
Live or die, that is the question
The plot begins with the mother and son reaching a grave, probably the family patriarch – “probably” because the game has no narrative, reminiscent of the silent films of cinema history.
Their house is invaded by a group of bandits, and all that remains is to escape. The mother decides that the best thing to do is send the boy to a type of monastery with lords of giant brown robes that look like monks. There the son would be protected, he could study. That was what she thought. Ledo mistake.
At this point, the story splits in two. On the one hand, the boy, who realizes the trouble he has entered and does his best to escape the place without being seen by the religious; on the other side, the mother tries to survive by fleeing armed and dangerous bandits.
As stated, El Hijo is based on stealth. It is necessary to use the shadows and especially intelligence to avoid being noticed by enemies. Some items help in the adventure, such as the main ally, the slingshot, with which it is possible to throw stones to destroy vessels and divert the attention of opponents.
But don’t think it stopped there. Other artifacts are available, such as rope toys and shoes that make life easier. Unfortunately, with less than half an hour of playing, the game becomes repetitive to the extreme and not very challenging.
If there is something you can hold on to until the end of the 5 hours of play (the time it took us to finish it) it is the real background of El Hijo. Along the hide and seek, children who work for the monks and bandits can be seen, some of them in a condition similar to slavery, with stones tied to their legs.
To get an idea of the seriousness of the situation, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO), in 2016 there were 152 million children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 years in child labor in the world. In Brazil, that number reached 2.7 million, according to the National Household Sample Survey (PNAD) done in 2015.