It’s rare to see a breathtaking game on iOS devices. While many support cute graphics, and others are going for the high definition aspect of the displays on the iPad and iPhone, few have actually been true experiments in visual representation. Sword & Sworcery changes that, with a game that is not only fun to play, but also to see, hear and experience.
I have the pleasure of reviewing this game for you below. This may be giving too much away, but this is a genuine work of art and storytelling, something to be remembered.
It’s clear that Sword & Sworcery (the technical name is Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP) is a visual masterpiece. Through the use of atmospheric techniques, an engaging color scheme, and graphics that are both pixellated and realistic S&S is a game that you can’t help but stop playing every once in a while, simply to look at the scenery around you.
If, for nothing else, this game is worth buying as a showcase for this pixel art. Character animations feel proper, as though they’re actually living, breathing beings that happen to be working with bodies made of pixels. Animals bound into the bushes as you approach them, a dog follows you around and barks, and a woodsman chops wood with a strange amount of vigor.
It’s these small touches that really make the game a joy to behold. You realize that you’ve been staring at a mountainside or a sunset for longer than you thought, and you find yourself feeling some joy as you observe the life happening around you in this gorgeous world.
This may seem like undue praise; it’s not. The visuals alone are worth the cost of entry, but once you experience the visuals in conjunction with the audio experience you’ll begin to understand just why I’m a fan of this game.
Living Up to the ‘EP’ Part of the Name
When I first heard of the game I was skeptical about the name. What did an EP (which, for those of you curious, is a term generally reserved for small demo records) have to do with gaming? Everything.
See, the soundtrack in S&S is another layer placed on top of the interaction. If you touch something, chances are that there will be some noise associated with that tap. You can hear the rustling of leaves, or a trickle of water, or any number of other small sounds that not only add to the experience through their sheer immersiveness, but also sound proper in the game’s soundtrack itself.
Speaking of the game’s soundtrack, it’s available as, appropriately enough, the Sword & Sworcery LP from iTunes. Releasing a soundtrack seems more like something that you could expect from a movie instead of a game, but in this case it’s absolutely fitting. Each track is beautiful, and interacts with the environment and your actions to genuinely complete the entire experience.
Generally I start reviews with this section, but I felt that the entire premise of the game couldn’t be approached without you understanding just how beautiful the game is, from its visuals to its music, how immersive the game is with each tap, touch, and swipe illiciting some response from the environment.
Sword & Sworcery refers to itself as a “treatment for soul-sickness”, an “audio-visual experiment”, and many other things. At its core it seems to be an adventure game following the Scythian, a woman searching for a book that will help her and her people.
In reality, this ‘game’ is much more than that. I mean, sure, you wander around your surroundings, engage in battles, and interact with the world, but it feels less like something that is meant to be played and more something that is meant to be experienced.
Interacting With the World
As I’ve mentioned, you do spend some time interacting with the game. Most things are accomplished with a “Tip Tap”, from movement to investigating the surroundings. The controls always felt tight, with a certain degree of responsiveness that I really appreciated. You can also use your much-loved ’pinch-to-zoom-motion to view the environment on a large or small scale, something that contributed to me staring at the screen instead of playing it for minutes on end.
For all of its atmospheric weight, the game doesn’t taking itself too seriously. The woodsman that I mentioned earlier is named Logfella. Many of the observations that the game makes are tongue-in-cheek, with purposefully odd language usage and a certain amount of colloquialism that brings this retro-styled game directly into the present.
Of course, the ‘Sword’ aspect of the game has to come into play at some point. Whenever you are meant to engage in battle you are meant to shift the iPad from landscape to portrait, adding a certain amount of suspense and physical movement into what is meant to be a tense moment. I battled with everything from a lone wolf to an ancient magic, and each time I felt that the shift into portrait orientation added a certain something to the battle that wouldn’t have been there if I had continued to hold the game in landscape mode.
This review is short, and I spent half of it telling you how the game looks pretty and sounds great. Unfortunately, despite the words that I’ve already spent, I can’t think of what else to say about Sword & Sworcery as a game.
As a piece of art, it’s fantastic. All of your surroundings are beautiful, and the music draws you in and fits the mood perfectly. While there is a ‘game’ somewhere in here, I feel that it’s inappropriate to label Sword & Sworcery as such. It isn’t just a piece of art, but it isn’t just a game either. It’s something new and engaging, something that will cause you to look at your iPad in wonder.