Reviewed by Dan O'Halloran
Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP Review
- Immersive gameplay
- Unique soundtrack
- Awesome 8-bit graphics
- Slow pace is not for everyone
- Puzzle solving sometimes too easy
- Restricted to iOS devices
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP takes the classic point and click adventure game and brings it to a whole new level. The developers have carefully designed every aspect of the game to be a slightly strange and totally immersive experience. A perfect combination of simple puzzle solving, retro graphics and finely-crafted audio. It’s a work of art masquerading as an adventure game. A true showcase of what games can do on new platforms.
A Meandering Mythopoetic Adventure
Oh boy, where to start? You play as an adventurer who, after retrieving the Megatome from its never-dying guardian, must now sing sprites skyward and enter the dreamland of a mountain man to retrieve the key to unlock the door leading to the creature you cannot defeat. To aid you, you have a dog whose thoughts you can read via the Megatome, your trusty sword and shield and the ability to call upon sworcery, a psychocosmological force that alters your perception of reality. Still with me? I hope so because I’m as lost as you are and I’m having great fun. And that’s the real beauty of this game.
Like Sierra adventure titles from a few decades back, part of the point of this game is to explore. Poke around different landscapes, talk to the people you meet, unravel the story of the game. Clues are sprinkled about, mostly through a slightly disjointed narrative sprinkled with Internet jokes. Like any good adventure game, there is a little mystery, a little combat and a lot of puzzle solving.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP can be a little confusing at times. It doesn’t always hold your hand on where to go next or how to accomplish the task at hand. The Megatome you acquire early on can be accessed as a kind of in-game guide, but even that isn’t straightforward. Instead of a clear explanation of the next step in the game, it reads the thoughts of those you’ve met. Those thoughts are a somewhat strange and meandering, but if you read between the lines, you’ll see where you should be headed next. Part of the charm of the game is that it doesn’t lead you by the nose even though the path to finish is on a fairly narrow track. There’s still room to figure out how to get to the next section without feeling like you are simply being led along.
8-bit Fun From A Commodore 64 World
Superbrothers in the title refers to the art style of the game. Inspired by the Commodore 64 computer from the 80s, the developers have turned the retro style design into something more. Many elements in the game are interactive, like bushes that rustle when you tap on them. The style may be simple, but it draws you in. And somehow the simple creatures and people you meet in the game come fully alive despite their blocky appearance.
Combat takes advantage of the iPad’s touch and positional abilities. When encountering a creature, you must rotate the iPad from landscape to portrait to enter battle mode. A sword and a shield icon appear on screen. Tapping them at the right time will either land a blow or block one. The battle mechanics are simple, but are a welcome bit of action to break up the slower pace of the rest of the game.
The Swong of Sworcery
The soundtrack and sound design of the game deserves special mention. Toronto musician Jim Guthrie composed the score and it’s quite unlike anything I’ve heard before in a video game. Yes, the music is light and contemplative while you are exploring, then urgent and tense during combat, but it does so in a way that is haunting and beautiful, much like the rest of the game.
The same can be said for the sound design. Tap on a bush and you will hear the leaves rustle. Stray too far from the path and your guide dog barks to lead you the right way. Evoke your sworcery to call the sprites and enter a mini-puzzle game where every tap of the screen plays a harmonious or discordant sound. Simplicity and understatement is woven throughout the audio in the game as it is in the other elements of the title.
Superbrothers is Superfun
As you can probably tell by now, this game is hard to explain, but great fun to play. It doesn’t hit you over the head with its features, but quietly draws you in. And once you experience its charms, you’ll be hooked. Expect to see Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP to collect many well-deserved awards this year for its innovation and artistic excellence. And how many video games can say that?
Final Verdict: 5/5