by Joe Matar1
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP Preview
Actually play with your phone.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP was originally released on the iPad and iPhone early last year, with Windows and Mac versions showing up about a year later. From story to graphics to gameplay, it was a title undeniably striking in its uniqueness. Disappointingly, mere months ago, the developers claimed they had no plans to bring the game to the Android, leaving us Android owners snubbed. But soon we shall be snubbed no more. In fact, if you managed to catch it, a “beta” version was already released in early November inside the Humble Indie Bundle V. However, if you missed it, here’s the skinny on the game to let you know what to expect when it’s genuinely released.
Superbrothers tells the tale of the Scythian, an adventurer on a quest to retrieve a powerful book known as the Megatome and three portions of an object called the Golden Trigon. In truth, the finer details of the quest matter very little and the game is aware of this as all of the text in it is written in casual, hip, pseudo-internet speak (for example, “amirite” makes a few appearances). The game actually features the option to connect your Twitter account to it, giving you the ability to tweet just about every single line of narrative that you see (that’s right, every bit of text is 140 characters or less). If such a feature holds no interest for you, however, ignoring it doesn’t affect your in-game experience.
Superbrothers is controlled by manipulating your Android in a myriad of ways, giving it a gameplay style all its own. Solving puzzles requires you to interact with the environment by tapping, sliding, rubbing, shaking, or flipping your device. There’s also infrequent, yet exciting combat, which is to some extent rhythm-based. You must turn your phone or tablet vertically to enter combat mode and there are further instances where turning your device this way and that will be integral to game progression. Superbrothers was clearly designed specifically around handheld gaming, further proving how tech-savvy it is. The PC version had to find alternative, occasionally dumbed-down approaches to some of the puzzles, so it’s great to know the game proper will soon be available to a wider audience.
Superbrothers’ absolutely gorgeous graphics give it a look truly unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s pixel art but extremely detailed and well-composed pixel art, done in a completely new and refreshing way, rather than the lazy, simplistic approach so many current indie games go for in order to cheaply trigger the gamer nostalgia gland. The music and sound, too, were composed with obvious care by musician Jim Guthrie, who has crammed in a number of fleshed-out rock compositions. Some of them, impressively, were done with the ancient software, MTV Music Generator, on the original Sony Playstation.
On the whole, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is an engaging mish-mash of old-school and modern with a quest akin to classic Zelda, pixel-based yet highly detailed graphics, touch-screen controls, adventure-game-style puzzles, rhythm-game-style mechanics and odd, Internet-aware, fourth-wall-breaking storytelling. These disparate elements come together to create a wholly distinctive gaming experience. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP may be burdened with a funky title that almost screams inaccessibility, but don’t let that put you off. If you are at all interested in unique titles that experiment and play around with the video game medium, you owe it to yourself to check this one out at release.
There doesn’t seem to be any official word on the game’s actual release date on Android. (The soundtrack composer’s website makes reference to Dec. 21, aka “The End of the World,” but there seems to be an air of mystery and confusion surrounding the game and all things relative to it, so I never feel sure of what these guys are actually saying.) However, since the game is already playable the whole way through (despite perhaps a few rare and minor control issues), I imagine it should be in your palms very soon.