Game Review: Superbrothers: Sword &Sworcery E.P. (P.C. Version)
After Lucas Arts decided to focus on making crappy Star Wars games and suffered the loss of their core creative team (who went on to found Telltale Games, who is releasing some awesome games to this day) and Sierra Games went the way of the dodo, it looked like a very bleak future for fan of graphic adventure games. Luckily there were enough fans of these laid back, narrative driven games who started tinkering with breaking into the game development industry and started to create some great games. With the recent surge in popularity of the indie game scene some of these games that may have had trouble finding an audience have a way of finding their way into the hands of the people who would really enjoy them. By way of The Humble Indie Bundle I got my hands on a copy of the oddly titled Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery E.P. (to now be abbreviated as S:S&SEP)and its soundtrack Sword & Sworcery LP – The Ballad of the Space Babies. Being the only title in the bundle that I have yet to hear of or play, I dived right in with no preconceptions and almost immediately found myself completely sucked in by the games amazing atmosphere, excellent soundtrack, and simple point and click interface. As I delved further into the game, its world just simply mesmerized me unlike a game has yet to do in a long time and after my 5 hours for a full playthrough I found myself emotionally moved as the final scenes played out. And all of this is presented with minimalistic ‘8Bit retro graphics’ and the use of music.
The game itself is simple. There are no vague and obtuse puzzles that graphic adventure games are known for that require you to use the ‘rubber chicken’ with the ‘pulley’ and then attach it to the ‘clothesline’ to free the ‘rubber duck swim tube’ which you need to search for an ‘old band-aid’ to fix your ‘rubber glove’ which you need to pick up a ‘piece of candy’ to give to the ‘suspicious man’ so he gets sick and runs away barreling headfirst into a ‘tree’ knock the ‘cat’ loose so you can use ‘Max’ to….. well you get my point. The puzzles here are pretty straight forward usually just requiring you to do some clicking around or looking carefully at some text clues for an obvious answer or exploring for slightly ‘hidden’ locations. There are some battles that require you to block with a shield and retaliate with your sword and some that you need to focus on blocking in a rhythmic pattern along with the music. All in all, never anything very difficult if you’re paying attention to the various clues the game gives you.
The narrative is also simple, but delivered quite interestingly. The game is played out in 2nd person as you control the heroine on her quest to find magical triangles to stop a horrible evil. A narrator chimes in whenever an event happens or when the heroines thoughts need to be portrayed, using pronouns like ‘we’ and ‘us’ instead of ‘I’ and ‘she’. This 2nd person delivery is pretty interesting and is something I very rarely see in games (and movies and books and so on). There is also this whole mystical air that surrounds the narrative that really helps give it character.
So, with all this simplicity going on, how does the game invoke emotions. Well, through more simplicity, this time in the graphical aesthetic. The game is presented in this kind of ‘high-res’ 8Bit graphic style that just paints some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve seen in video game (I actually have been using one as my desktop wall paper for quite a while now). Scenes of lush forests, eerie castles, quaint huts, and ominous doors make up the bulk the environments you will need to explore. The characters are more or less just stick figures with a few extra pixels to fill them out. What really makes these ‘pop’ is the color palette that the designers used. Pastel colors mixed with tinges of grey create this eye pleasing, organic looking atmosphere as well as matching the overall tone of the game and its music.
And onto the music of the game. If it weren’t for musician Jim Guthrie (no relation to Woody or Arlo Guthrie) this game probably wouldn’t have melded together as wonderfully as it does. Gazing into a darkened scene of a forest with blades of light thrusting through the canopy goes from being a pretty picture to a work of art when this proggy, post-rock acoustic, electronic music comes out of your speakers and into your ears. And for every emotion the game wants you to experience it triggers it by using music. Fighting a skeleton, it plays this ominous feedback and drum track to match the fear and intensity that the character is feeling. Accomplish a major milestone on your journey, a groovy little ditty plays which relays a sense of accomplishment, and at the same time adds to the depth of the heroine as it is easy to imagine that this is the kind of music she would listen to in her world. All in all the music is what brings the whole world to life.
And on its own, the game’s soundtrack isn’t a bad listen outside of the game. Consisting of all the music found in the game as well as a ton of bonus songs the electro-acoustic guitar instrumental music is really mellow and relaxing to listen to. It’s chock full of dreamlike atmospheres and it’s simplicity allows you to just lay back and get absorbed in another world. Well worth listening to once you make your way through the game.
All in all, it’s great seeing the laid back graphic adventure games making a comeback. And when mixed with some great aesthetics it makes art like I’ve yet to see. The mythopoeic narrative, excellent music, and beautiful vistas paired with their own simplistic natures really aid in sucking you in to the game’s world. If you are the type of person who likes ‘art’ games and graphic adventures, this should go on your must buy list immediately. For all others, I say give it a shot, there isn’t anything else out there quite like it.
S:S&S:EP is also available for iOS with touch screen controls. You can get the PC/Mac version here with the soundtrack bundled in. The game is also available for Linux.
Here’s the soundtrack for your listening pleasure.
Posted on 2012-07-27, in News, Videogames and tagged gaming, Graphic Adventure Games, Jim Guthrie, Music, PC Games, Prog Rock, Superbrothers:Sword and Sworcery E.P., Tales From Bandcamp & Full Album Streams, Video Games. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.