Monday, 26 May 2014

Indie Gaming: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

It's difficult to know where to begin describing this game. On the one hand it's a fairly simple adventure game (of sorts), with beautiful pixel-art scenery and understated but fitting music. On the other hand, it's all contained in a rather bizarre packaging.

There's the spinning record motif, the mysterious character called "the Archetype" the intrusive mentions of twitter, the episodic nature of it, the horrific interface. One particular moment actually ties in with the actual current date (moon phases), although thankfully there are two ways of getting around this.

The game begins with you controlling a mysterious Scythian warrior, on a quest involving a book of immense power, a dark evil, saving the world, sacrifice, and the rest. It's played out in a basic but interesting fashion, moving back-and-forth through the sparse areas of the game to visit areas and complete tasks.

The first task is to get the Megatome, then to get the three Trigons (Triforce reference?), before defeating the (evil?) Gogolithic Mass at the top of the mountain, Mingi Taw. The scenery, music and general pace of the game creates a wonderful mysterious quality which is unfortunately undercut by the more goofy elements and interface woes.

The simplistic character models leave a little to be desired, although it does work well for the Trigons and Gogolithic Mass. The main character and the few NPCs are in dire need of a few more pixels to give them a bit more definition though. The artwork is generally good, and thematically sound though.

What I found truly frustrating was the interface and non-core game elements. The interface was obviously designed with touch-screen devices in mind, but I feel like I would have been less than impressed with it even on an ipad or similar. Various points will ask you to share your experience on twitter, something I will never understand, and the Archetype character and vinyl record motif do nothing but distract from the far better parts of the game.

I can understand the Archetype being some sort of attempt at a meta-narrative, especially as he appears in-between each segment of gameplay. But I think the game would have been far better served concentrating on it's core concept, and fleshing that out somewhat. More challenges, more varied combat encounters, a greater build-up towards the conclusion, etc..

The biggest shame was the emptiness of the world, and the simplistic nature of much of the gameplay. Perhaps I'm being a little harsh on indie developers, but there were large areas of the game which you visit multiple times and yet on many occasions they would contain at most one item of interest. This meant there was rather a lot of slow walking around completing objectives.

There's a great core to the game, and it provided a couple of hours of good entertainment despite the frustrations I had with the interface and various other elements. I'd have loved to see more from the world they created, and a bit more variety too. It's a regular in various indie bundles though, and surely worth whatever low price I paid for it.

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