In a world with 3D TVs, augmented reality devices in our pockets, and video phone calls, you’d probably say that the 21st century has long abandoned the technology that once seemed so amazing in the ’70s and ’80s. The indie developers at Capybara Games have proven that 8-bit graphics are something that even a 21st century digital boy can love. Their release of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (S:S&S EP) on the iPad back in March was released to much critical acclaim and praise, including the Achievement In Art award at the 2010 Indie Games Festival, further certifying the awesomeness of this game that I’m about to explain.
The iPad version of the game recently received an update to make it into a universal app, and S:S&S EP Micro was released as a cheaper alternative that is iPhone- and iPod Touch-only, as did happen with World of Goo.
Gameplay and Controls
In S:S&S EP, players are assume the role of an unnamed Scythian heroine who has left her war-stricken home of Scythia and seems to be on some kind of errand. Right out of the gate, players will be completely confused and disoriented, as no explanation of pretty much anything is given regarding the storyline or your goals, which seems to have been intended, because a huge component of the game involves figuring out things for yourself. Subtle hints are given in the form of short dialogue that appear on the screen from time to time. It took me about 4 minutes of playing around to figure out that to walk around, players either double-tap on their destination or hold their finger in the direction in which they wish to travel.
The great majority of the game entails you tapping your way along some 8-bit landscapes in an effort to figure out what the heck your purpose is. There are only a handful of characters in the game; you’ll find yourself tapping on them a lot to prod any information that you can get from them to display above their heads. The dialogue that appears is actually told through your own words… or should I say thoughts?
This is funny. Amirite?
I got a few laughs here and there out of the extremely flat thoughts that come out of the heroine, and a few more from the list of thoughts from what I like to call the Conscience Book. Players access the book by tapping on the plus sign that is ever present in the top right corner of the screen, selecting the book, and turning their devices back to portrait orientation to navigate through a short menu system of thoughts. Here, there will sometimes be statements that you can access to give yourself a nudge in the right direction if you’re feeling a tad bit helpless.
Sometimes, I found the gameplay to have been a bit too inexplicable. For instance, I spent about 20 minutes fighting against a floating triangle in one of the few fight scenes that the game provided. Turning to portrait mode after confronting the ominous triangle, my sword and shield buttons seemed to do nothing too often for my liking. Immobile, my character took a beating at least a dozen times because I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to revive my health. Once your hearts deplete to zero, I figured out (after a few Google searches) that I needed to find mushrooms on the ground to replenish my health back to norm… except there were no accessible mushrooms. The damned triangle was blocking my path…
Triangles in this game are mean
It all seemed unbearably difficult at times. Never being a quitter, I fought through it with all the persistence I could gather in myself. The game also incorporates puzzles into the storyline in the form of a spells that are cast, which I found to be entertaining because of the slight requirement for thinking that it brought to necessity. All in all, the difficulty paid off because I did enjoy the game very much while it lasted. Moments of intrigue, adrenaline-rushing, and frustration worked together to make my time well-spent, even if I quit in rage.
Gameplay and Controls Score: ★★★★
Presentation and Graphics
S:S&S EP proves that 8-bit images can be beautiful
As an 8-bit game in the age of console-quality games on the iPhone, it’s got to be hard for anyone to say that the graphics in S:S&S EP are gorgeous by any measure. Bound by its own merits, the image quality is always below par with other apps you’ll find on the App Store. During much of the game, I was bothered by the lack of Retina-quality imaging on the graphics that were clearly not intended to be in 8-bit style. The text was often blurry and a nuisance to lend my eyes to, as were the brackets that appeared alongside any in-game dialogue. However, the scenery of the game can sometimes be awfully pretty in their own manner (as explained by the surrounding images), and I therefore gave some leniency to the score of this category. Credits for the graphics go to Superbrothers, Inc.
The setting created by Superbrothers Inc. in this scene really helped to get my blood pumping as I ran for my virtual life
Presentation and Graphics Score: ★★★
The soundtrack to the game was written by Jim Guthrie, an accomplished musician from Toronto, Canada. It has the ability to set the right mood for each occasion and event during the gameplay of S:S&S, and that is all I need say about it, since you can demo the upcoming LP, The Ballad of the Space Babies, on Guthrie’s BandCamp profile. Some of the sounds in the game are also produced by Guthrie, but there is no discernible difference from the ones that were not because they all sound superb.
Audio Score: ★★★★★
Once you finish the storyline, you really are finished. Although the storyline is very respectable in length, once you’ve finished, there is no incentive to return for a second play-through.
Replay Value Score: ★
Value For Money
In my opinion, the $2.99† that Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery LP costs was well-spent. The gameplay was extremely enjoyable and time-consuming due to the length of the campaign. There isn’t much more to be said in this category. Seeing is believing. Refer to the game’s 4 ½-star iTunes rating if you don’t trust me.
Value for Money Score: ★★★★
The guys over at Capybara Games wrote in the credits that, “S:S&S EP is a fresh approach to the old school adventure videogame with an emphasis on audiovisual style.” I can testify that this game is exactly that. Although I do tend to stick with mainstream developers who have perfected the formula for commercial success, I very much enjoyed playing the game. Although the system of reviewing apps here at iFans forces me to give this app a cumulative 3 ½-star rating, I must say that the rating, in my opinion, deserves at least 4 stars in the books of most people. So, my final verdict: buy it.
† All prices are in US currency unless stated otherwise.
This review was written by the iFans.com Review Team. Overall scores are rounded to the nearest half or full star.
All applications and accessories were purchased at their respective prices unless stated otherwise.