What do you get when you take the pure adventure of The Legend of Zelda series, combine it with the pixelated beauty of games like Another World and Prince of Persia, and mix it all together with a group of wacky Canadian developers, musicians and artists? You get Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, one of the most fascinating and beautiful games you can play on iOS.
So what kind of game is it? What do you do? More than anything else, this is a game about discovery. While progression through the game is linear, it never really feels that way. As you maneuver your nameless heroine, you can zoom in and out of the incredibly detailed and gorgeous environments at will, poking around to uncover little pockets of information or an animated sequence. If this game is one thing, it's relaxing.
Before you start playing, you’re encouraged to put on a pair of headphones. Trust me, it’s worth it. Jim Guthrie’s soundtrack is the stuff that many a musician’s musician will love. And it blends perfectly with the game environment. We’re not crazy about the whole “album motif” that the game has going with the weird title and the disorienting title menu, but hey... S:S&S is all about experimentation.
Even though the game is not that long, the four or so hours it takes to make it through are stretched out. Time kind of slows down when you play this game. I never found myself compelled to manically tap my way through to the next screen. Whenever the languid pace is interrupted by a burst of action, you really feel it. The fighting sequences in this game are particularly inspired and require you to tilt the iPad/iPhone so it’s vertical, changing the environment to one that’s claustrophobic and full of close quarters combat.
The game certainly isn't perfect. The in-game Twitter option, which encourages you to Tweet your accomplishments, should have been scrapped altogether. Or at least re-thought. Instead of prompting you constantly, it could have still been there in the background and just let you decide what you wanted to share. But the developers must have really loved it, since the game’s name is a hashtag, as it appears on the iOS home screen - #sworcery. And some of the dialogue can get a tad arty-for-the-sake-of-being-arty.
But much like a comedian’s comedian or a musician’s musician, I think this is a video gamer’s game -- intended to be appreciated by an esoteric minority (though I also think that many a comedian’s comedian would love to be embraced by the masses). With this in mind, I think that S:S&S has done quite well for itself, earning game of the year awards and notching itself on several top-10 lists for the best games of 2011.
When you add everything up, the lush and detailed landscapes, excellent soundtrack and overall atmosphere of the game combine into something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. I think it’s definitely one of the best adventure game experiences you can have with your iOS device. While I think it’s worth five bucks for sure, the game also goes on sale for a buck four times a year during the solstices and equinoxes.
If you think it might be up your alley, but aren't quite convinced, pick it up when it’s on sale.