Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP Micro (i.e., the iPod/iPhone version of the acclaimed game) was released the other day, so it should be available all over the modern world by now. Believe it or don’t, this is the creators’ preferred incarnation of the title, and only $2.99 USD to boot — a superb joy-to-dollar ratio if you ask me! Additionally, the original iPad version has now “gone universal,” which, I’m not sure, but I think means you princes and execs and pro athletes out there loaded enough to own multiple iDevices needn’t purchase it again. Truly now is the time of miracles!
I had actually managed to borrow an iPad and play through a pre-release copy of the game last month, fully intending to compose TIGSource’s very first Real Review, but Derek (presumably unaware of this) banged out some little blurb of a post ahead of me, stealing the heck out of my thunder. At any rate, it’d be a bit foolish writing a full-on review now, with so much said on the game’s behalf already. (Check Google to see what I mean.) So, as a compromise, this’ll be half review, half straight-up gushing. Sorry, it can’t be helped. *ahem*
The Megatome the extended if you dare care…
* Now featuring TIGSOURCE EXCLUSIVE tidbits direct from the superbrother himself!
For the unenlightened: S:S&S EP (as it likes to be initialed) is a collaboration between a handful of Toronto-based creative heavyweights, namely visualizer Craig D. “superbrothers” Adams, noisemaker Jim Guthrie, and the wonderful game-building elves of Capy: Designer/director type Kris Piotrowski plus code/love machines Jon Maur and Frankie Leung (and friends!). It was first conceived as a purely audiovisual experience; an EP-length stroll through an imaginary park, really to showcase the incredible synergy of Craig and Jim’s work. Now this is close to what I first played (and fell in love with) in that shady hotel room on the outskirts of GDC 2010. But goodness how it’s blossomed since into the “brave experiment in I/O cinema” we have today! Part King’s Quest, part Punch-Out!!, and significantly longer now than even an LP, it’s sort of become an interactive retelling/reinterpretation of The Legend of Zelda — in the mythological tradition, that is — as if Zelda were in fact a proper legend, handed down since ages past.
Those of you groaning here at the prospect of another airy “art game,” stay with me. Reviews may have lead you toward such an understanding, but trust me: This is a point-and-click graphic adventure through and through. You walk about, examine objects, solve puzzles, and even (to a lesser extent) maintain an inventory. It’s punctuated by rhythm-based action sequences, sure, but a number of old-school graphic adventures featured their share of action as well.
What I’m saying is Sword & Sworcery is a gamer’s game at heart, a fact perhaps obscured by its thick outer layer of Weird. That it feels so special and so unique to so many is a testament to the importance of true, individual creative control over the game-creation process as a whole. Sworcery’s masterfully realized layer of personality is a big part of what makes it shine. Every step of the journey oozes with the love put into creating it. And the fingerprints of each contributor can be clearly seen throughout. Not just in the art and music, but also the movement and sound, transitions and effects, the puzzles and patterns and out-of-the-way little details. The subtle interactions with the digital flora and fauna. The past thoughts of NPCs exposed by The Megatome. It all coheres so naturally. The experience itself ranges from soothing to perplexing to frightening to funny, mesmerizing to heart-pumping to solemn to trippy. It even touches on poetic at times. But surprising and delightful it is with consistency.
To be perfectly clear, I love this game. Without a doubt, it’s among my Favorites of All Time, indie or otherwise. It’s precisely the type of game I hope succeeds the most. But defining how “good” or “bad” I think it is would be missing the point — regardless, I enjoyed playing Sword & Sworcery more than any game in recent memory. There’s magic and mystery about it, a genuine sense of wonder. It absorbed me. That won’t be true for everyone, but I can say with confidence there’s something of value here for most.
* TIGSOURCE EXCLUSIVE *
Just moments ago I received an email from Mr. D. Adams replete with early, work-in-progress images of the game and various other juicy details. (Like how it was initially called Poopsock, no kidding!) It’d be nice to pull together a full making-of feature in the future, so I won’t post it all now, but here’s a little something for the poor souls who bothered to scroll down this far. Thanks, Craig!