Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery EP

I've failed this fortnight in writing a 'game of the week', which is a shame because I've actually been playing an awful lot. Unfortunately all this game playing is related to articles so it doesn't seem quite right to use the material elsewhere. The only game which isn't related to an article is The Witcher 2 for 360, which has been fun, but I've only played a few missions so I'm not entirely qualified at the moment to comment. Anyway, here's a review which was previously published by the wonderful website Critical Gamer. Its for Swords & Sworcery for the PC, which is a 'good' game I think. The review is very positive, but be warned that the game, for all its style and uniqueness visually, kind of lacks what the original iOS game had - gameplay. Or at least anything which the average PC gamer would consider had any depth. However the game is lush - so yeah, review over... 

The notion that smart phones can be a legitimate gaming platform has quickly become established in pretty much all spheres of the gaming industry. Ports of classic games have been coming thick and fast with everything from Marathon to Monkey Island being given a touch screen make-over. Simultaneously the mobile platform has produced classics of its own which likewise have been taken up with relish by the PC market. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, the decidedly left-field release from Capybara Games and the eponymous Superbrothers, is one such game which has this month been given a new home on the PC. Yet, while the simple delights of flinging disgruntled birds across a screen easily translates into the keyboard and mouse interface of the PC, Swords & Sworcery's task is a little more complicated.

The original iOS game experimented with the device's touch screen and gyroscopic capabilities bringing this interface right into the centre of its experience. So does this once uniquely tactile interactive experience endure without the physicality it championed on the iPhone? Well, yes, in a word it does. Kind of. First of all the game remains a beautiful audiovisual piece of work. The pixel graphics are stunningly detailed and the animation is fluid while both the soundtrack and audio design, written by Jim Guthrie, help to craft an equally distinctive and memorable counter point to these visual delights. This incredible audiovisual world created in Sword and Sworcery is the game's strongest achievement and remains as distinctive as ever, helped by the increased resolution and sound provided by the home computer.

The game's narrative, while it follows many of the tropes of the fantasy adventure genre, presents itself as purposely nonsensical and as a result isn't particularly engaging on a narrative level. The script can be very fun however and even manages to develop a sense of mystery despite its insistence on obligatory, self-referential jibes. The game's characters are also enjoyable to interact with thanks to the mechanic of the Megatome, a book which details the game characters' thoughts in a slyly familiar fashion (okay, its like Twitter). Designed to reflect the iPhone's primary purpose as a communication device, this works perfectly well on PC and it still feels genuinely fresh and original a year later.

Unfortunately this feeling of originality doesn't quite hold up in gameplay. As mentioned above the original iOS release played with the mobile device's unique capabilities and the move to the more familiar interface of the PC does feel like a step back. In traditional adventure game form the player uses the mouse to move their character about and interact with the world. This very familiar set up is then broken up by bouts of combat and puzzle solving – that is, Sword and S(w)orcery. Both these mechanics are functional but its hard not to feel the gaping lack of touch control. The puzzles were great fun when they required the player to explore the world with their fingers but when reduced to clicking a cursor any sense of tangible exploration is lost. Unfortunately these puzzles (as is also the case with combat) are too simple to really carry themselves without the uniqueness of the iOS interface and as a result the overall gameplay can feel a little weak.

As a visual, auditory adventure Sword & Sworcery remains unique and at times breathtakingly beautiful. Unfortunately the gameplay isn't quite as inspiring and does suffer from the change of interface. That said, the game is cheap and while it may be short it is something everyone should witness. If you don't have an iPhone then this essentially gives you a chance to see and hear this charming and imaginative game. 

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