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A rhythmic battle with cosmic geometry builds tension upon the unknown and heightens this anxiety with the abstract crescendo of the music. Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP is all style and complete substance. It’s tangible proof that the Renaissance of 2d gaming is truly underfoot.
Sword & Sworcery may incorporate some classic mechanics, but even from the start it is apparent that this is a unique ordeal to embark on. In fact, it never tries to be anything other than a game or some type of interactive experiment. The Superbrothers process never tries to immerse you behind four walls.
A figure named the Archetype tells you that you’re entering the first stages of a layered experiment and sets the tone for your interactions with everything that follows. You’ll take control of The Scythian – a mysterious adventurer from a distant land. The Scythian doesn’t know much about her new surroundings and as she learns about this foreign land you will make discoveries with her. When she uncovers new information through the narrative she will make a reference back to you as well – letting the player know that she is aware of their presence. When dawning upon new info she might say something like “we thought this” or “we thought that”, making a purposefully special interconnected relationship between you and The Scythian.
Shortly after the two of you begin the Sword and Sworcery experiment, you’ll quickly start interacting with the intuitive point ‘n’ click adventure. It is easy to move around, inspect the environments, and meet the inhabitants of the world. Before you know it, you will point ‘n’ click your way into meeting a dog named Dogfella, a man named Logfella, and a girl named, well, Girl. These fellas will help guide you along your journey and give you important knowledge about the world. The tone of the narrative is almost Dr. Seuss-esque while also being grounded with modern terminology. This dialogue and narrative style deepens the idea that you are both interacting with The Scythian’s world and our own simultaneously.
Soon after the start, The Scythian and I began putting any new information we were absorbing to use. We discovered that through finding a book called the Megatome she would be able to unlock the powers of sworcery. But while acquiring the “burdensome book of sinister sworcery known as the Megatome” we set free the Gogolithic Mass – a foul evil entity who unleashes a miasma across the land. The only way to restore the landscape to its former peace is by unlocking the mysteries of the Sylvan Sprites who will then unlock the passageways to a Trigon fragment.
Confused at all? Excellent.
To unearth the harmonious Sylvan Sprites you will undergo tests of the mind by solving puzzles. The Scythian and I became an integrated part of puzzles solving, not just because I help solve a puzzle but because I became part of an abstract feature, like music, which then becomes part of the solution. Brainteasers might have you strumming strands of flowing water like they’re harp strings or manually confuse your touchtronic device or computing apparatus into believing you’re jumping through time itself. With the combined use of The Scythian’s sworcery and your intervening touch, you will be able to set free the restorative powers of the graceful Sylvan Sprites.
Puzzle solving is also where much of the game’s beauty becomes pronounced. While closely inspecting an environment for puzzle-solving nuances it is difficult not to take notice of the care put into your surroundings. Slight changes in color suggest a breeze rolling across shrubs, woodland creatures scurry away with a musical arpeggio, and the most fantastical of interactivity gives life and a brilliant unity to the music, sounds, and pixelated impressionistic visuals.
When you’re not solving mysterious puzzles or venturing across the beautiful landscapes, you will occasionally take part in battles. The confrontations in Sword & Sworcery are few but they are of paramount importance. The sword and shield never leave The Scythian’s side and thus together you must wield them with the precision and elegance of a veteran. Battles are more about memorization and patterns than they are about hacking and slashing. You need to listen to the music as the notes build and use these tools to score a victory. The shield can block incoming attacks and dodge an attack if timed correctly and the sword can bat-away projectiles or sunder a foe in two.
A battle with a Trigon is lengthy and will challenge the most responsive of player’s reflexes. As in many other aspects of the experience, the music is integrated with the combat superbly. Battles do not happen too often, but the music emphasizes the idea that these bouts are of the utmost importance. After all, the restoration of the land depends on their outcome.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is self-aware that it’s standing on the shoulders of giants and the experience gives some subtle and not-so subtle nods to its forefathers of gaming. But, despite its retro visuals and appropriated gaming tropes, it shouts “I am here now and we are looking to the future”. Every artistic aspect complements the other down to the gameplay itself. The Superbrothers’ experiment and the music by Jim Guthrie is a conduit to a sense-stimulating interactive machine…and the machine is marvelous. All you need is a sense of adventure and a mouse to experience one of the greatest wonderments ever told on any medium. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is a rare form of excellence.