Thursday, January 17, 2019

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery (PC) - Review

Swophisticated or Swo-Swo

It's unclear how the EP relates to the rest of the game.
One of the things I like best about indie-games is the feeling I get that a lot of them weren't made solely for the purpose of making money. Instead, I can almost believe that some were made because the creator believed in the story or experience it would give. I am sure they also hope that their game will make money, but I have so much respect for the integrity of standing behind your idea and not compromising details because you think they would work better for the mass market. I have nothing against money-grabbing triple-A titles as such, you either buy them or you don't, but I am glad there is a great variety nowadays - from the really peculiar to the extremely standard.

But in all of this I still have one rule - the game has to be fun (ok, I have some exceptions to this rule). Because if your game is mostly tedious to get through, it will probably affect the impact the story or experience has on me as well, and unlikely to the better.

And then we have a game like Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. It's definitely interesting. It's cool. It's unique. It has great music and a very special art style. But is it fun though?

S:S&S is one of those games that are really more of an art project than just a game, and as such whether you're going to enjoy it or not probably comes down to how much patience you have for those kind of things. Just about everything about this game will either rub you the right way or the wrong way. Just look at the title, "sworcery". Is that a good idea, or a dumb one? EP, as in "extended play" as in a vinyl record? Cool? Or... lame? The game allows you to tweet your progress at pretty much every turn. Hip? Or annoying? This game managed to simultaneously make me think the creators knew exactly what they were doing and just tried to cram every idea they had in there.

There are people here, but they can be hard to find.

Released in 2011 for Iphone and Ipad, Wikipedia calls S:S&S an adventure game, but I thought of it more of a puzzle game. There is a story to follow, but it honestly makes no sense and my lasting feeling was rather of bumbling around trying to find the next place to interact with and to solve whatever I needed to solve there. Accompanying you is some pretty sweet music and a roster of odd characters. Sometimes something evil chases you. Something about moon phases. You can pick up mushrooms and eat them. I couldn't even try to explain what the game is really about more than that, because I can't say I understood more than that. And maybe that is just as well, as I suspect half the fun of this game is to discover it for yourself.

I first heard of S:S&S on a podcast (I can't remember which one unfortunately) and again an enthusiastic description won me over. But I was sceptical almost from the start. And I've played some odd games. The art style gets a lot of praise, but to me it was just a gloomy pixel style and really nothing special. The gameplay is probably the weakest part, but I wouldn't go all the way to saying it is bad. Walking around, talking to cryptic people with their cryptic and barely helpful dialogue, trying to decipher the world and what I am supposed to do, it was half-interesting at some times. It didn't help that the world feels pretty constricted. There aren't many things or screens to discover. For a game trying so hard to be deep it really lacked a lot of depth.

Who knows what people are trying to tell you.

The music has been praised as well, and it is very good. I even wish there would be more of it but the creators seem to be wanting to use it sparingly. I'm ok with that though because it makes it more impactful when you do get to hear it, unfortunately it has the drawback of adding to the somewhat empty feeling of the rest of the game. Jim Guthrie's soundtrack does immensely for adding atmosphere to the game however, I would say this is where the game nails whatever it is that it's trying to achieve and tell you (I don't know what it is, but it must be that). Either way you end up thinking about this game you should really give the game OST a listen.

As this game wants you to connect with social media, I thought it only suitable to seek out some other thoughts on this and went to check out some Youtube comments (always the best source of human greatness, slash end sarcasm). I was actually surprised to see how many people were saying a lot of the same things I was thinking regarding this game.

I couldn't finish this game. I got about half-way through before I got stuck and there was something about moon-phases and more cryptic information and I leant back in my chair and had to think about whether I thought continuing was worth my time. Did I really want to know what was going to happen next? Not really. Instead, I decided to enjoy the soundtrack on Youtube and move on in my game library.

In the end I can't bring myself to tell people not to play this game though. It's a divider, and it probably has to be experienced for you to really know if you think it goes down as an extremely memorable and eye-opening experience or not. It's a bit like the movie Donnie Darko that way. It's either cool-weird or just silly-weird. Neither of those options have to be good nor bad, it probably mostly comes down to your mood the day you decide to play this, because while a lot of the Youtube comments were like the ones above, there were plenty like this one as well.

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