Semi-Review: S:S&S EP Micro

By: Brandon McCartin (BMcC)

On: April 26th, 2011

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*

Consult The Megatome the extended if you dare care…
* Now featuring TIGSOURCE EXCLUSIVE tidbits direct from the superbrother himself!

Jim's Secret Concert

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.

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!

Early S&S Mood Test

  • Yougiedeggs

    I went the other way around. Accidentally bought the iPad version on my phone.

    I guess if I ever get an iPad……

  • Ravergames

    Cool, bought it for the IPhone!

  • Brandon McCartin

    I'm not 100% clear on the system Apple's got in place, but doesn't the iPad version being “universal” mean you can also use/download it on your phone?

  • Brandon McCartin

    Apologies if this post turns out as incoherent as I'm afraid it might. I've been up like a million hours now, so I can't be sure til tomorrow morning. Writing this I think I encountered the typing equivalent of Highway Hypnosis.

    Anyway, the Cliffs Notes version goes: This game is really good, buy it if you can!

    Hm. That could have saved a lot of time.

  • bjohndook

    Yes, actually I don't think you would be able to buy the iPad version on the iPhone if it wasn't universal.
    At least I wasn't able to see it before the iPhone version was released – then both versions were shown as available.

    I bought the iPad version anyway despite not having one, because I'd been looking forward to this and it seems crafted with enough dedication for me to part with $5.
    Figure if I do ever get an iPad, this'll be one of the first games I play on it.

    I'm at about the halfway point percentage wise, and loving it so far.

  • Briker Ed

    For me, playing trough it was a great experience (yeah, I know I sound corny >.<), but it reminded me how the older games (I'm talking 80's here) used to give me so much joy for the time spent on playing them. And I really can't stress that enough…. It reminded me what an awesome time I had loading new games, for the first time, on my gaming systems & the PC.
    I mean, the first time I ate that mushroom, the screen changed, the weird music started…. uh…. All I can say is thanks for the little things like that troughout the game.

    Sworcery genuinely kept me hooked start to finish. I still find it a bit weird how something on such a small format (iPod) could draw me so much in.

    It's definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but I like it. A lot.

  • Serek You

    Take this iOS shit and go home

  • brad newby

    Would have bought it if I had something with a lowercase “I” in front of its name, but I don't, so I won't.

  • googoogjoob

    this is the most hipster game ever i am sorry

  • KennEH!

    Android please.

  • Ivan Safrin

    This is, honestly, one of the best games I've played in a really long time. Like so many people said before me, it was the first game in a while to remind me why it's worth playing games in the first place.

    Watch and learn, everyone else.

  • Anon

    Yes, please. Actually, I'd be better off trading in my Android for an iPhone at this point; very few of the apps I want are ever going to leave iOS devices.

  • Thomas

    Thanks to an interview they did I'm now keenly aware of their complete disinterest in doing this for any other platform, period. It's really too bad. These kinds of games are right up my alley.

    I currently own an iPhone 4, but I'm planning on switching providers and phones in the very near future. Thusly, I've held off on purchasing any iDevice games. I just don't see why I'd bother. I've already poured too much money into a device I'm getting rid of.

    I'd seriously love to see this hit the PC at some later date, but given their attitude towards the desktop market I won't hold my breath. There are lots of other meaningful gaming experiences on the PC anyway. :)

  • Tom (I_smell)

    Yo that whole gate part was pretty sweet.

  • Tiganon

    Yes, let the butthurt flow through you!

  • Chris Morton

    My only resentment is that it is for Apple Handhelds… Something which I have no inclination whatsoever to buy. Or any other handheld, for that matter… The lack of PC games being released is increasingly frightening, I think… Is there any chance they would port this over?

  • KaL

    I'm not sure I'd give S&S EP more than a minor nod for it being a game. It's predominately about art and sound – these two things it does fantastically. The game part…eh it's not particularly fun, it's smug and with only a couple of exceptions the puzzles are identical. Don't get me wrong here the price is fantastic, as an experience it's delightful and I don't regret buying it just it only looks/sounds amazing but it doesn't play it.

  • jameskond

    It heavily relies on touch and how the touch of your finger moves across the screen (making beautiful sounds while doing so) I suppose a mouse could be used for that, but really, a lot of the magic is the touch screen.

  • Vania

    That's what I wanted to know,
    I've watched a couple videos and I still dont know what the game plays like.

    I feel the indie scene is even more obsessed with graphics than the mainstream.

  • James

    Everyone says, “It's like The Legend of Zelda”
    But then they say it's a point and click adventure game.
    So, it's basically absolutely nothing like The Legend of Zelda?

  • PhasmaFelis

    “Lack of PC games”? What?

    Sure, it's a shame, but platform-limited games have been a fact of video gaming for 30+ years. This is nothing new.

  • Sum One

    Yo, I was clicking shit hard core back in the eight-seven.

  • Brandon McCartin

    Boo hoo hoo.

  • Brandon McCartin

    Oh, right on! It gets a bit more intense later on.

  • Brandon McCartin

    Like I said, it plays like a graphic adventure. My review describes the gameplay/interactions more than anything else.

    Maybe I'll do video reviews in the future, but for now you'll have to settle for learning to read.

    (This goes for you too, genius who “liked” that comment.)

  • Brandon McCartin

    You mean everyone except me? I said it's like “an interactive retelling/reinterpretation of The Legend of Zelda … as if Zelda were in fact a proper legend.”

    That says nothing of the gameplay, which I described as “a point-and-click graphic adventure through and through.”

  • Brandon McCartin

    More like you don't, so you can't. :P

    At the rate Apple releases new iStuff, though, you could probably pick one up in a bargain bin by, like, next Tuesday.

  • Brandon McCartin

    You should be sorry, leaving such inane comments!

    P.S. “Hipster” is a noun.

  • Generic Commenter

    Man I'm sure glad I hate everything that has to do with iOS. Because discrimination is certainly an acceptable character trait nowadays… right?

  • Ivan Lazarte

    What is the point of an ios exclusive these days? This reminds me of the ill fated Amiga, maybe technically superior for a while, but eventually eclipsed by more open platforms.

  • Consumatopia

    There are many different kinds of “point and click graphic adventures”, and they appeal to different kinds of players. You've described the types of interaction required to solve the puzzles (“You walk about, examine objects, solve puzzles, and even (to a lesser extent) maintain an inventory”) but you haven't described the cognitive skills required. Are the puzzles logical or arbitrary? Do they require memorization? Lateral thinking? Pixel-hunts? Backtracking? Click every inventory object on every screen object?

    Even if the puzzles are as simple as KaL makes them sound, I probably still want to play this. But someone more interested in deep gameplay might feel differently.

  • Briker Ed

    The puzzles require basic reading and reasoning skills. There is no point & click type of inventory, as found in most p&c games. There is backtracking. There's basic fighting Punch-Out style.
    Oddly enough, none of this matters…. I'll be quite cheeky and say that gameplay itself has the least influence here – though, the controls of the iDevice have been used quite nicely.

    For me it was an audio-visual big fat cake, the gameplay/controls were there basically for me to be able to gobble it up from all sides.

  • Basicmechanicalparts

    Thanks for the review. However, I have one selfish and most likely irrational request. Please can you refrain from using the phrase “You dig?” in any form of textual communication. I… I can't really explain why… It produces profoundly unpleasant feelings inside me which are difficult to describe.
    I understand you may be annoyed and uncomfortable with this request, but I beg you to comply. As one human being to another.
    Perhaps you could think of replacement phrases to use in its place? What about using the phrase, “Do you understand?” as a substitute? It might be rather plain and won't really add any colour to your self image or writing style, but it gets the job done. I must apologise, that was a rather simple example! But I am a simple person. I am confident that a personage such as yourself will be more than capable of thinking of a more interesting replacement phrase.

    I assure you, this request is not meant to patronize or offend you in any way. Furthermore, I am sorry I am unable to offer anything in return other than my heartfelt gratitude. If there is any compassion in your (possibly jaded, I don't know and i'm not going to pry) heart, please do not ignore or refuse this idiots request!

    Once again, I must apologise for my childlike selfishness. No doubt it is a sign of my underdeveloped brain! Hohoho!
    But brain development and jesting aside, please accept my request.
    Thank you.

  • Vania

    I was replying to KaL's comment about the game, not to your review which I have to admit I hadnt read at the time.
    I've just read it now and it does talk a bit about the mechanics though it is mostly about the aesthetics, which is understandable if the game started as an audiovisual experience as you said.

  • Sonic_99

    iOS exclusive?? Meh…. what Ivan Lazarte said above…

  • Jesse Maddox


  • anthonyflack

    Hmm… I only have an iPod Touch, but do I buy the universal version, knowing I'll probably end up getting an iPad one day…? That's the only decision I have to make now.

    (Yep, I will definitely be getting an iPad for development purposes one day; thanks to the encouragement of the TIGsource community I have been convinced that the iPad needs more exclusive content.)

  • Consumatopia

    i guess the government should have prevented all of those competing consoles from coming to market?

  • anthonyflack

    The Amiga was an open platform for software development, though. It was killed by chronic mismanagement by the suits at Commodore.

  • Nick Retallack

    The puzzles are mostly about noticing patterns and oddities in your surroundings.