Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

A review I wrote of the iOS game Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP for www.square-go.com

Sword and Sworcery EP is an adventure game for the iPad and iPhone. This is like saying that Apocalypse Now is a film about Vietnam – the statement is correct but also doesn’t quite capture just how much more both are than just a ‘game’ or a ‘film’.

Sworcery casts you as The Scythian, an adventurer in a land not really named with a goal that isn’t that well defined. It basically boils down to finding the Megatome, taming the Trigon Trifectas and defeating The Golgolithic Mass before it kills you.

Did that make any kind of sense? Probably not, because Swords & Sworcery EP is game that exists purely on it’s atmosphere, much like the venerated PlayStation2 classics Ico and Shadow of The Colossus. There aren’t any cut scenes explaining everything or chunks of exposition. You simply wander through the game world meeting a couple of people, with snippets of dialogue that is full of South California Slacker drawl. You are getting the merest glimpse at a much bigger world.

This is helped by the game looking stunning. It doesn’t have crazy 3D graphics, it uses quite simple looking pixel art. It looks like it could have been a PC game from the early 1990s but this fails to get across how well animated and intricate the world is. You move between areas of forests and meadows, each with such attention to detail that they could be framed and sold as artwork.

The look of the game is only equalled by the soundtrack, a superb piece of work that is available to buy separately. The already superb atmosphere generated by the visuals and the script is amplified by the haunting music which really is an achievement in video games.

What we do have to remember though is that under all this atmosphere and artistry there still needs to be an enjoyable game. Luckily, there is. The main cues for the game are the point and click type that have been undergoing a renaissance in recent years. You touch the screen to move your characters around, tap items to look at them or to talk to people. Once you learn the skill of Sworcery, you then have various puzzles to solve and items to find. It’s not quite a role playing game and not quite an adventure game but rather than falling between those two stools, it ends up being much more that either of those genres.

There is a battle system as well, which you access by rotating the device from landscape to portrait. The battles are pattern based, so you wait for your enemy to move a certain way then attack. It’s simple but the game doesn’t need a system any more complicated.

So we get to the score then. Some people will find it vague for vague’s sake, the puzzles somewhat meandering and will be put off by the slow pace so take a star off. For this reviewer, it is simply one of the best games made regardless of system. The combination of the story, visuals and sound is as close to perfect as you can find.

Five stars out of five

Originally published May 5th 2011

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