Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is a winner.
The truth is, there’s nothing all that ground breaking about gameplay by itself. Same can be said of the unique art direction: it’s stellar but pixel art isn’t ground breaking. Even the music, while totally cool sounding, isn’t anything on it’s own.
What Superbrothers did right in making this game is combining all these elements (and then some) into a cohesive whole. The game has atmosphere, creative storytelling, adventure, and suspense.
The game is set within a non-referential period of time (it’s neither medieval or modern). You’re The Scandinavian, a specially chosen heroine to complete the Woeful Task. The whole story evolves around completing this task, which has some mortal ramifications. There won’t be any spoilers in this article, meaning it will necessarily be brief and full of praise for how this was handled.
The player is asked to engage the environment with all his/her senses. Since the game was originally for the iPad, this included touch. In porting to the PC that aspect was lost, but it didn’t hinder the experience for me. The player must pay attention to what they see, hear, read, and sense. Using the senses, the player must solve puzzles to unlock secrets and reveal the next steps. All of this problem solving is accented with subtle references to culture, gaming fads, and even Twitter. I imagine during the early days of the game on iOS, this feature was humming with social interaction. The game lends itself to this very well, employing twitter and tweets who share information, pass along hints from the game cast, and engage the player in a sort of quasi-multiplayer environment. Yet the player is always keenly aware that they are alone on this errand, and that they alone must solve the puzzle of the Trigon Trifecta.
Unlocking the secrets of the game filled me with wonder every time. The tone and pace of the game is set very well by the music. It lingers in the background, but is responsive to every setting. The sound effects somehow ground the player in the levels. The sounds and songs are non-intrusive and rythmic, serving not just to add to the atmosphere, but assist the player in solving the puzzles. It’s a game where blasing the radio while playing it will actually have negative impacts on the experience and delay success.
The art is perfect. I haven’t seen any pixel art in a game quite like it. It really got my imagination going to the possibilities available to developers who employ this method. I don’t really know how it works, but the game looked completely 2D while feeling completely 3D. I can’t even begin to say what mix of either the game actually is. I just know it was a beautiful experience. The pixelated world is employed with shaking cameras, glowing objects, and use of light and shadow that makes the game feel quite modern despite it’s initial appearance. It also gives the game a very ethereal feel, which makes the experience of playing all the more magical.
I’m an explorer at heart, so this game really tickled all my senses in just the right ways. It’s not a very long game (unless you’re not so good at puzzle solving, in which case it could take you some 30 odd days to get to the end) so the mental tension involved in problem solving is somewhat mitigated by the fact that you’ll stumble into the answers eventually. Which is actually more exciting then raw brain fission hard at work to force a solution. Somehow, chance discoveries make the journey more revealing, more special. I remember two instances in which I accidentally stumbled upon a clue or solution and both times it was a really fun and cool experience.
There’s also combat, but it’s not a primary feature and the player will spend most time in the game solving riddles and exploring areas.
I highly recommend this game. It’s $8 bucks and about 8 hours of immersive gameplay. This game has a great destiny.
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