Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery EP

Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery is an award winning game designed by Superbrothers and Capybara Games. Capybara Games is a relatively new studio, having started off in the mobile market back in 2005, and eventually making their way on to the likes of the XBox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, PC, OSX, Linux and the iOS mobile operating system.

Their most recent game before this one was a fairly small release of Critter Crunch back in in 2008. Capybara Games have had a long good grasp of the mobile operating system before they made their way to iOS, and from the success of this new game of theirs, they’ve come a long way.

Although this game was released way back in 2011, it was unfortunately only for the iOS mobile operating system. Even still, this gem of a game had gone mostly unnoticed until this past April, when it made its way on to Windows, through Steam, with an OSX version having been released at the end of May. Interest has picked up fairly rapidly since then.

You’ll have to excuse me if I wax lyrical about this game.

I liken Swords and Sworcery to a rainy day, sitting in your most comfortable armchair in the evening, all duties having been done, and you’re just looking to dive in to a swathe of calm, fantastical adventure. It’s a pretty mean feat for a game to transport me back to the serene, responsibility-free childhood in the way that Swords and Sworcery does whenever I pick it up.

Very few games of nowadays do so. It’s an attempt to inject the old wondrous serenity and discovery into games in the way that the current banal trend of publisher-ordered ‘safe’ ones do not. That’s the beauty of it.

The Story

The story itself is told sparingly. We follow and control a Scythian in her travels through the Caucuses and it’s surroundings. Historically, the Scythians are a nomadic tribe, so the scarcity of the characters, and the general sense of isolation experienced within the game lends itself well to the mythos and fantasy of the storyline. The story of the Scythian is told by “The Archetype”, a cigar-smoking, suited storyteller, who reminds me a tad of the Illusive Man from Mass Effect, and split in to four sessions, or chapters.

The way the story is told, with plenty of illusions, archetypal characters and almost dream-like mythical exploration of the game’s surroundings make it feel like an ancient allegorical tale. What the game would mean to any one person I expect will differ.

The Soundtrack

In its basic sense, Swords and Sworcery is a music game, hence the name. There’s a good reason it’s not just Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, but Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. The start menu is even a disc that you can spin to start the game. The composer, Jim Guthrie, is highly regarded amongst the Indie Game community, having recently composed the soundtrack for Indie Game: The Movie, a movie about, you guessed it, Indie Games, which is definitely worth a watch as well.

The music is sparse and minimal, with a clear 8-bit music influence. It’s soothing and complements each section of the game fantastically. The soundtrack was written for the game as much as the game was written for the soundtrack. It’s a fantastically sweet soundtrack, effectively fueling the gameplay, and certainly complementing the wonderfully crafted, almost hand-picked, 8-bit graphics. My only fear is that in this day and age, such retro is lost on the adrenaline-fuelled game consumers of today.

The Graphics

The graphics, oh, the graphics. Like most of the 8-bit carefully crafted graphics of days gone by, you can get lost in the world of Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery. Even on the higher resolutions, the game just looks fantastic. The carefully placed, minimal pixel representations of objects, people, and the landscape gives the whole game such a fantastic quality that it’s hard to just keep playing and not just sit and take in the wondrous scenery. The graphics came out of a different decade of gaming, yet will never age.

But unfortunately, this does bring me to some points that I do have to make. The game does not come without its flaws, of course.

The Gameplay

Though it’s easy to get lost in its ambiance, it does so in the way that could be mistaken for a short 8-bit film. The issue is that there may just not be enough game. It’s a point-and-click adventure (tap-and-drag? touch-and-slide?) of course, but unfortunately this genre puts the game in a league where it may be hopelessly outclassed by the PC’s long history of point-and-click magnificence.

Additionally, some of the gameplay elements leave themselves hopelessly simple or even cumbersome when it lost its touch-screen interface that made it such a popular product on iOS in the first place. But that doesn’t want for trying, though. The style and graphics of the game does transfer amazingly well to the likes of a higher resolution, as most pixel-perfect games of days gone by do. Finally, the Twitter integration introduced in the PC version (the option to tweet any or every piece of dialog in the game) seems very arbitrary.

Nevertheless, it’s a fantastic little time-sink, that doesn’t cost the world, but just wants to be experienced.

Wrapping Up

Swords and Sworcery is an exercise in serenity. It’s a sweet introduction to old-school adventure, and certainly lends itself to iOS.

Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery has lost some of its magnificence in its transfer to PC, but it’s still a lovingly crafted adventure that needs some time set aside to be experienced.


Summary

A love letter to a pixel-perfect musical experience.

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