"A poignant tale, an eccentric world, and endearing oddball writing make the Superbrothers and co’s debut a truly memorable one."
Developer: Superbrothers and Capybara Games
Publisher: Capybara Games
Platform(s): iOS, Mac, PC (reviewed)
Release Date: April 16, 2012 (PC), March 23, 2011 (iOS)
Wow -- what a journey. So nice to play something as refreshing as Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. Very glad this made the jump to PC. Quite the odd one, though. A seriously odd one -- the sort that you never really understand but roll with because it's clever and fun.
Example: every line of text is no more than 140-characters in length, for the game has Twitter integration and thus allows dialog to be shared over the Twitterverse. Another: somewhere in the game there is a giant vinyl record resting above a doorway that no one ever acknowledges as they walk past it. (Apparently that’s commonplace.) Or how... look -- just trust me on this, okay? It's incredibly strange and out there.
All of this, however, is merely a facade for its true nature. Beneath its bizarre exterior lies a deep, beautiful, tragic, and sometimes humorous tale. An adventure with a surprising amount of heart and soul for something that began as an iOS game -- a platform not known for being host to emotionally charged games. It juxtaposes whimsy with poignancy, creating a game that's equal parts fun and adventurous, yet moving and artful. It's quite a remarkable game.
This trip into the peculiar begins with a man in a suit known as The Archetype. He kicks off every chapter (or "session," as he refers to them) with a few vague words about the game and the story that's about to be told. The gist is that you, The Scythian, are on a "woeful" errand to find the Megatome; a book which grants the holder the power to use sworcery and read the minds of others. That's only a small part of the greater quest, however, for The Scythian is also seeking to reunite an artifact known as the Trigon Trifecta -- a sort of Triforce-esque item of immense power -- a goal that the Megatome can help achieve.
Her journey takes her through a small, but pleasant, partially populated forest. There are few people in this area, each helping The Scythian here and there by lending mostly vague hints toward her next task. The Scythian does all the talking, technically, summing up the conversations through a mixture of flowery prose, causal speech, and maybe just a bit of slang. Her unusual commentary provides the majority of the game's charm, for the oddball writing gives Sword & Sworcery a unique touch. Kudos to the developers for somehow managing to write the whole game in 140-character snippets.
The Twitter-ness doesn't stop there, either. When viewing the Megatome, the thoughts of each character is arranged as a Twitter feed of sorts, grabbing new musings as they appear and archiving previously spoken sentences. What's presented is, of course, appropriately crazy, characters pondering everything from philosophical matters to the extraterrestrial. Looking into their inner-most thoughts produces some of the best, most absurd lines in the game, as a matter of fact.
The Scythian is controlled by pointing and clicking where you wish her to go, steadily walking toward her destination unhurried. The same extends to examining environmental elements. Sword & Sworcery doesn't have much in the way of resistance, the game having just enough battles to count on one's hands, so it's a mostly challenge-free affair. Even its puzzles aren't so much of a matter of "how" as they are a matter of "where and when," as they're all very easy. And if you do get stuck, just clicking about the screen will unveil the solution.
In most other games that might be a huge oversight. In Sword & Sworcery, it's merely a proponent of the implicit simplicity. This isn't a game meant to tax the mental faculties; it's something to be seen, to be experienced. One of those games that's a breeze to play through, the story being the primary draw. And a fantastic story it is -- but to say anything past the premise would be to spoil it, for the game is so short that the tale begins almost as fast as it begins.
About the only time challenge does arise is in combat. Fighting in Sword & Sworcery is a matter of timing when to strike and when to evade. Slashing wildly is disallowed by putting distance between The Scythian and her adversary, raising their shields as they approach to further protect themselves. Blocking their attacks and countering once their guard drops is the only means of whittling down the enemy's health. Raising The Scythian's shield or swinging her blade is enacted by pressing the buttons of those items on-screen (the z and x keys can also be used, though the game never actually tells you that).
The tone of battle, is actually quite tense. The surroundings darken around the two combatants, a steady drum beat setting the scene for a dramatic clash of swords. Composer Jim Guthrie crafts a brilliant electronica score to instill a serene atmosphere, an air of mystery, and an upbeat attitude. A perfect companion to the game's minimalist pixel art and its many vistas, which moves with a fluidity not usually seen in visual styles as this.
If we were to get only one game ported from iOS devices to home computers, it would have to be this one. The tightly woven story and terrific narration are a constant delight. Stirring music and beautiful minimalist art support the epic perfectly, setting the appropriate tone and atmosphere for this poignant tale, solid gameplay moving everything along nicely. If there's only one woeful aspect to this wonderful game, it's that The Scythian's journey is over so soon.
Callum Rakestraw, NoobFeed.