Review: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery

Rain-soaked songbirds. Nestboxes. Deathless specters sleeping with uneasy dreams beneath Mingi Taw. Nonsensical tweets clogging up twitter feeds proudly proclaiming #sworcery.

The Scythian spies some ducks

We saw some ducks swimming beneath the moon and wondered what was up with that. #sworcery

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery is, for lack of a better term, an “event” game. Some games are instant hits, well-made concoctions of artwork, gameplay, music, story and setting that really take off. They happen as a discrete event, and then fade away. They may be often imitated, but can never be truly equaled again.

Which is odd; broken down into its component parts, S:S&S should not work, at all. Retrofied Atari 2600 graphics, a color palette that explores the nuances of green and brown, gameplay that revolves around the lunar phase, chiptunes (of all the nerve!)… these things, if combined in another game, would make me say, “Oh look, someone trying to slip a fast one past me with lots of style and no substance.”

The Grizzled Boor

Watch out, the Scythian! It's a grizzled boor!

The gameplay is beyond simplistic. The puzzles are not challenging at all. The “fights,” for lack of a better term, are simple affairs in tapping the screen. As far as gameplay goes, there is not a whole lot of either game or play here.

Yet dollars to donuts, I would bet serious cash that anyone with an iOS device that plays this game will be blown the fuck away.

S:S&S is a musical, artistic exercise in bizarre psychedelia. The brain child of Jim Guthrie, who is some sort of mythical Canadian satyr, like Ginia was a hobbit and Ethos is a… (how will he go with this? Fairy joke? Nah, seems to obvious. Go with a moose joke. Moose are fab-oo this season.) moose.

The… story… such as it is, is revealed through cryptically-written statements that pop up as players tap the screen. Tapping moves the player character, the Scythian, a vague Conan-ish stand-in (though, as she is female, she is more like Jirel of Joiry, one of the first true heroines in fantastic fiction). Turning the device this way and that unlocks new modes, such as the combat mode or the Megatome, which allows players to read the thoughts of animals and other characters. There’s the faithful dog, Dogfella. Or the woodsman, Logfella. Or his daughter (presumably?), the dark-haired girl. Or a Carl Jung/Sigmund Freud stand-in (complete with cigar!) called “the Archetype.”

S:S&S Howard Homage

Fun Conan Fact: "Cimmeria," the homeland of the titular barbarian, was inspired by the Texas Hill Country.

The gameplay revolves around a quest for the Megatome, fleeing the bad guy, and then releasing forest spirits to unlock pieces of the Trifoce Trifecta, and fighting such notable enemies as wolves and grizzled boors.

There really is no way to describe the gestalt that is playing the game, alone at night, in a darkened room, just the player and some headphones. One presumes that this is the way Guthrie and Co. intended the game to be experienced, a collective of music and 8-bit artistry and touch controls and weird little snippets of text that, together, equal more than the sum of their parts. They equal Suprebrothers: Sword & Sorcery, which is one of those things that people just have to experience. It is an event, and for $4.99 on the app store, the price of entry is super, super low… assuming one already has an iOS device.

7 comments on “Review: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery”

  1. Nah. One time I reviewed a game and I said, “It sucks. Don’t buy it.” I think it was Final Fantasy XIII.

  2. Like all Canadians I’ll wager the writer is a hipster, his use of fantasy tropes seemed oh so very ironic. That’s not so say they weren’t also somewhat poetic however.

  3. There’s an in-game Twitter feature which allows you to Tweet lines of dialogue.

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