Game reviews are a bit like Fight Club, in that they share the same first rule. It is a faux pas to speak of the review itself within the review, breaking some sort of fourth-wall-continuum. But, here I am, a young reviewer with everything to lose, about to do it. May the gods of Mingi Taw show me pity.
Above this text, y’know, right up there, is my score. I haven’t come to an exact number as of writing this, but I’m leaning towards a score in the low 8’s. This score is accepted as two things in the gaming industry:
- A weak score, indicative of a failure of a game because the curve of game scoring is artificially high. Or,
- A padded, lazy score from the reviewer not courageous enough to be real, fluffing a poor game’s stature.
I’m here to tell you my score is neither. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is a good game. A very good game, earning a very good number. I can’t overturn how broken game journalism’s scoring is, but I can be honest. It does a whole mess of things right, but is not perfect. In the truest sense, s: s&s ep (the game’s self-provided abbreviation) earns its score. Let’s talk details.
The most basic categorization of s: s&s ep would be an adventure game. However, it is so much more than that. It is an interactive, reflexive mural lavishing nature, dreams, religion and music in equal parts. It is lovingly and fastidiously crafted using 8-bit-esque graphics, pulling off tricks your old NES could never imagine doing.
The nature part, the very world you’re in, is an astounding, rich setting where leaves shake, rabbits hop into brush and lakes reflect your image. Without question it is the best looking pixel art around. But the way that the story is told fleshes out the world much more. The game is set as a therapy session for you. And, by that I mean “You the Gamer”, not you the in-game character. You are (presumably) put to sleep and dream of this world in which you traverse it and the very dreams of your dream.
While dreaming, you are a mysterious woman, The Scythian, who is forced to help a small family in the woods after inadvertently releasing a horribly scary being known as The Gogolithic Mass. Though initially sent to simply retrieve The Magatome, you now have to deal with the scariest antagonist I can readily recall. The way his moves, his clasping hands, the vacant deer skull headpiece … ugh, seriously creepy.
From that beginning, you are sent forth to solve a few puzzles, go a few places and talk to a few people. It’s a nice slow game, completely linear in its presentation. I would liken it to Journey in more ways than one, less dense and more puzzle-y though. The music (and audio in general) in s: s&s ep is astoundingly good, necessitating headphones and elevating it above the crowd. But, it is the way the audio is used throughout, setting scenes and changing moods that is so special.
In its purest sense, yes, this is a “Games Are Art” game. There is no question that it is a piece of setting rather than an A-to-B adventure. There are a few times when you are left to your own devices aimlessly, but honestly, I have a nasty penchant for mashing advance when I see a text bubble. So, that might be my fault (the writing in the game is also very, very clever). The puzzles are barely that, requiring the most simple thought processes to solve. There is a simply wonderful series of events that uses the cycle of the real moon to solve, though. This could take you four weeks if you chose, but you can skirt it with in-game and out-of-game tricks. The twitter integration is wonderful as well, neither integral or invasive.
So, yup. For the asking price of the “micro” iPhone addition, it is a no brainer. A simply wondrous app that sacrifices being a great game for being an astounding piece of art. It’s a post-modern trip down Nostalgia Lane, check it out.