Sword & Sworcery EP

Sword & Sworcery EP

What starts out as a simple quest turns into a whimsical and auditory experience.

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Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (I’ll be referring to it as just Sworcery for simplicity) is an indie adventure game created by both the developers Superbrothers and Capybara Games. Initially it was released as an iPad title, and then made its way to the iPhone, then Windows PC, Mac, Linux and Android platforms. As typical with a lot of indie titles, Sworcery uses pixel-based art with unique and sometimes novel gameplay elements. In Sworcery’s case, for the iPad, it used the tablet’s accelerometer and touch screen to interact with the game. There is also another aspect of novel gameplay that’s used: the moon’s cycle. This is explained later on as it is part of Sworcery’s story and gameplay.

Sworcery starts out as a female character known as The Scythian making her way out on a quest. She comes across a woman called Girl who is tending to her sheep in a meadow. Eventually you meet a man cutting wood aptly named Logfella, and the dog named, you guessed it, Dogfella. Your thirst for adventure has Logfella leading you to the mountain Mingi Taw, where you use a variety of clues and tricks to gain entry to the entrance. Inside is The Scythian’s quest goal: the Megatome. However this isn’t just some easy snatch and grab job, the Megatome is guarded by a ghastly demon spirit and The Scythian is chased out of the mountain.  The Megatome grants The Scythian the ability to read minds and this is where the real journey begins.

My time with Sworcery was an interesting one. I’m no stranger to iPad games that use the touch-screen interface as a way to experience the game via that form of interaction. Movement can be done by double-tapping anywhere on the screen, which is also the same way to interact with the other characters and certain parts of the scenery. Using your sword and shield is as simple as flipping the iPad into portrait mode, which brings the focus in to the battles more and allows your thumbs to reach the shield and sword button easier. Aside from the rather quick and intense battles, Sworcery is played at a relatively relaxing pace. Near the end there’s a bit of a rush with the controls, but by then your adrenaline has already been pumping enough to keep you alert.

Now after being granted the Megatome, The Scythian is taught how to sing the “Song of Sworcery” to find sprites in the world and the mystical Trigon pieces. It is during this update in the story that the moon’s cycle is used. You can only get the Trigon pieces at certain times of the month, either when the moon is a certain phase – Bright and Dark. This either A.) Halts your gameplay for a few days (or weeks) or B.) has you adjust your iPad’s clock and calendar to the right time (after using your handy Farmers’ Almanac). Just a fair warning for those looking to get 100% in Sworcery, using option B will soil those plans.

Sworcery features pretty decent sounds. With headphones on it is pretty easy to get lost in the moment to the sharp and on-point sound effects and the wonderful soundtrack from Jim Guthrie. Each area and setting has its own musical interlude, and even using certain power-ups can play unique music. Overall there really isn’t anything to complain about audio-wise for Sworcery; it’s pleasant and easy on the ears.

Even though Sworcery features pixelated graphics, the quality is well-done. While the characters aren’t detailed enough to see faces, their body design and mannerisms easily define them. The character design also blends nicely with the settings, giving off an almost organic feel. On top of that, the animation is fluid and almost natural. If this sort of look is your thing, Sworcery is definitely up your alley.

Not everything is perfect, however. Sworcery suffers from a very rough save/checkpoint system. If you have to suddenly put your gaming on hold or if you happen to not pay attention long enough and the iPad auto-shuts off, you’re bound to lose some progress. The worst experience I had was while watching the ending cinematic and didn’t notice my screen dim, then eventually shut off after not touching the screen. When I was able to get back to the game, my progress was back to right before ending the final section. It is incredibly frustrating to lose roughly 10 minutes of progress and have to repeat everything all over again. It’s not a game-ender, but when the majority of iPad games allow you to close it up if you have to leave or take care of an errand, and then be able to return to where you left off exactly, Sworcery’s method is the fly in the soup. There are multiple versions out so I am not sure how it is handled on the desktops or even the smaller iPhone versions, but iPad users should take note.

Saving issues aside, I heartily recommend Sworcery if you’re looking for a touch-screen adventure. The art is wonderful, the sound is crisp and clear, the music is enjoyable (and can be bought), and the gameplay is fun and challenging. Even if you don’t have an iPad, picking this up for any other platform isn’t a bad idea.

Grade: B+

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