Wot I Think: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

By Kieron Gillen on April 20th, 2012 at 5:00 pm.

You got a Sword? You got a Sworce? Then let's GET IT ON.
Let’s be prosaic to begin with. Sword & Sworcery EP is the result of a collaboration between Superbrothers, CAPY and musician Jim Guthrie. It’s converted lovingly from its initial Apple phoney-paddy-thing format last year, where it was very well thought of. It’s a graphic adventure which stresses atmosphere and style over traditional puzzles. I like it. You probably will too.

I’m being prosaic, because I’m just about to go off on a 500-word micro-essay tangent. I’ll get back to Sword & Sworcery EP eventually. Trust me. And if you’re interested in the game, you better get used to that. You’re in journey-over-destination territory.

I first really started paying attention to Superbrothers with their Less Talk, More Rock manifesto, because I’m an easy dupe for anyone who drops a charming manifesto and looks like they’re going to try and walk it like they talk it. In short – less overthink, more doing and learning. By doing, a well chosen less is almost always more than a over-produced over-focus-grouped more. Really, go read. It’s beautifully illustrated and as delightfully pop as a balloon going supernova.

Now, while I’m not entirely convinced by about how its production approach leads to the sort of games it’s trying to hail (which seems to be a bit of a leap of faith), I do appreciate its belief in the power of a unique grammar of gaming. As in how limited text, limited image and direct interaction can lead to something more evocative than something which explicitly holds your hands with extensive, expensive cut scenes, awkward tutorials and whatever. A single well-placed BLAST OFF AND STRIKE THE EVIL BYDO EMPIRE before you enter play can do as much as millions of dollars poured into whatever Hollywood rendering house you’ve got to return your calls. Fuck you, Bydo Empire. You guys are total fuckers.

Get used to men with wood following you around. AND IN THE GAME.

For me, though, it’s most audacious move is the one I didn’t see particularly discussed. As in, by creating its Rock hall of fame, it’s entirely rewritten the history of gaming. The Jordan Mechner original Prince Of Persia choosing to increase the amount of style, animation detail and whatever, was (correctly) analysed at bringing a cinematic quality to games. Another World (aka Out Of This World) picked up where Prince left off, with the iconic, vector drawn scenes interjected directly into the action. Those not as elderly as yours truly may have trouble understanding how this took the top of people’s heads off, but I recall the “when you pick up the gun YOU GET A CLOSE UP OF A HAND PICKING UP THE GUN” conversations in playgrounds. So, historically speaking, it’s arguable that the Prince of Persia/Another World actually gave birth to the anti-rock cutscene-getting-in-the-way world it specifically decries.

The Superbrothers manifesto says “Fuck That”. It looks not at trends of history but individual elements of a game in a specific moments. It is a manifesto of taste and, as such, evidences a certain aesthetic fascism. It’s not about where games lead to – it’s about where an individual game is at an individual moment. It’s about what works, right there. As in, it’s not that cut-scenes or text or anything is bad per se – but it needs discretion to make sure it’s the exact right amount to be properly evocative. And if it ends up like anything on that Another World to Shadow of the Colossus kind of axis, you’re probably sorted. Which also makes me think, in the long term, there’s going to eventually be diminishing returns there. It’s telling that the majority of games in their canon basically have a similar minor-key deeply ingrained sadness that, equally tellingly, the EP shares.

'It's behind you?' 'What? The Baddie?' 'No, your career as a games journalist, burnt out hack'

Perhaps that’s first thing to note is that this sense of mood is the main thing it shares with their own rock hall of fame. It’s mostly a downbeat, hyper-self-aware adventure game, complete with primarily indirect control of the protagonist (i.e. you click where you want to move). But rather than resting on inventory puzzles, it trims it down to a tiny handful of relevant objects. It’s more likely to be about acting in an appropriately mythopoetic manner (this is where it most reminds me of Shadow of Colossus. As in, when you succeed, you feel as if it’s a myth. (“Perseus’ polished shield reflected the medusa’s gaze”)). Puzzles are mostly confined to a single screen, with its solution often about being able to see what’s going on and manipulating it with your powers of pointer-wavy-clicky-glowy “Sworcery”. Which – and here’s a comparison which will raise everyone bar Walker’s eyebrows – is most akin to a hidden object game. What in the room can you interact with? Sometimes it’s as simple as finding them. Others, it’s a case of working out the logic of what’s going on by reason (if you’re good) or trial and error (if you’re shit). You work out what’s going on, and get a magical moment as pay off.

Other times it leans on a streamlined combat, cut down to an attack and defence button. We talked in a recent podcast that the reason why “solution” finding boss combat always feels so out of place in a Deus Ex-like immersive sim, because the entire rest of the game is based around free expression. Conversely, embedded in this genre, it works. It’s a puzzle, like everything else. If you’re going to do combat in an arcade adventure, this working of pattern and meaning is how you should do it.

Is this a Rainbow Islands reference? No. It is not. There are no Dungarees. The idea is ridiculous.

Dissecting the butterfly here doesn’t really serve it. So much of what makes the game interesting are the immaterial elements or the individual surprises. It’s a game which tries to keep a sense of wonder intact, and all the while undermining it with the cast’s world-weary, urbane cool. To state the obvious, the player-character The Scythian’s doomed quest is cheerfully described as a “woeful errand”. The whole thing is narrated dryly by “The Archetype”. Characters are deconstructed and mocked even as they’re introduced. It’s all irony as a way of life, implicitly understanding that the people you’re talking to will recognise the multiple layers you’re communicating on.

That’s the odd thing about a game which poses so don’t-give-a-fuck-and-nothing-has-ever-made-me-give-a-fuck. Its insincerity is a mask. It’s the most sincere, unironic game I’ve played in ages. If its princess is in another castle, its princess is actually in another castle. It covers it with layers of irony, but it’s based on a sincere belief that this shit means something. It could come across as being embarrassed of what it is, except its more like shyness. As in, what it’s talking about is too important to be approached directly and crassly. You have to joke about it, because if you took it seriously, it’ll shatter.

This is achieved in everything else other than the tiny snippets of dialogue. It’s genuinely beautiful, with moments of stark evocative beauty, sharp with strangeness.

I hate you, attack vagina.

The soundtrack by Guthrie is wonderful in and of itself but its integration is the key thing. The “EP” title makes sense, both in its four-parted structure, its small-yet-singular artistic statement and how the music is percolates throughout – both in sound and image. It’s a game which integrates all its aesthetic elements. For example, in the fights where a character beats their shield, with the DUM! DUM! is modern and eternal, retro both in terms of calling back to the primal prehistory of videogames and beating feat around a fighting circle, and modern as a club so cool they won’t let me in any more because I am so old and haggard that my testicles drag along the ground.

The mood, the stance: that’s what you’re here for. I don’t want to say dreamlike, but rather disassociated. Alec said it was an adventure game for stoners, which is a good shorthand for what I’m failing to wrestle down more precisely. It’s a game that comes at you at its own speed. You sort of roll with it, or you get frustrated. Divided into four parts, it explicitly takes you to the menu, quietly encouraging you to perhaps go off and do something else each element. One of the sections – and this is a controversial part of the game – adds an element which means it’ll probably take 28 days to complete without some magical jiggerypokery. There’s ways around it, both in and out the game, but my initial urge was to just fall into its rhythms. Why not take your time when it’s so considered? If someone’s thought about creating something aesthetically coherent like this, it’d be rude not to play along.

Expect to see GIRL displaying her pixels provocatively in some shitty men's mag in the near future.

Of course, the sections where it fails in its aims end up bemusing the player. For example, the twitter integration lets you lob up any piece of game text online, and often suggests you to do so. It’s just a bad call. It’s a game that embraces the irony of it all, but connecting to Twitter is just tedious. At these points the game becomes a friend you unfollow and hope they don’t notice. Flipping that around, there’s the bits where you feel it perhaps go too far in its mood chasing. For example, each boss fight starts with a slow build of sound and mood before the battle starts. And if you fail, you go through that build again. As great as it looks, when you’ve got an extended delay before you can get back to working out the attack sequences, it grates. Yes, it gives you time to recharge your shields, but that’s a “why do you have to recharge your shields after losing a fight?” sort of problem. And you know why: its tension and release, ceremony and ritual. But in this case, the rewards don’t seem to justify it.

So, an adventure game with action elements, controlled indirectly. Oddly, in its mythic tone and approach it reminds me of games which I’m sure that no-one involved in its development have played. As in, British Arcade-adventures like Tir-a-nog or its sequel Dun Darach. You know – the products of Brit devs trying to make D&D games without ever having played D&D. That mix of action, avoidance, limited palette, atmosphere and – above all – exploration. Though Another World’s stylish Frenchness is present, it actually brought to mind the artful and mostly forgotten Coxtel adventures. And, to state the obvious, it’s certainly playing a whole bunch of games with Miyamoto’s icons. You like Nintendo stuff, you’ll smile at bits of this. In fact, at times it seems like a strangely related to me fantasising about someone doing to the Nintendo back catalogue what Moore and Gibbons did to the Charlton comic ones with Watchmen. And I’m well off the topic, eh? And I’m just listing interesting games now, in a “Hey, you recognise the name-check? Aren’t we both cool” sort of way. All it’s doing is make me wanna play Lords of Midnight, and if I don’t stop, I’m going to yabber on about Heavy on the Magick or Dark Sceptre.

The Grizzled Boor does have an amazing penis.

In conclusion: it’s hyper cheap on steam (Including the soundtrack for free), very much itself and an adventure game in the truest sense of the word. It’s a game which feels like its own world, like an adventure, and discovering its secrets (and wondering about what it obliquely hints at) is a fine way to spend four hours and/or one month of your life.

Most importantly, the grizzled boor’s penis is amazing.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is available on Steam for £4.99 (currently 10% off).

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96 Comments »

  1. rustybroomhandle says:

    R-Type – sigh – good times, good times.

    EDIT: Also, ZX Speccy! Good times, good times.

  2. andytizer says:

    Personally I loved the game on iPad, and it has an amazing soundtrack, but I’ve heard some grumblings about the “indirect” controls that Kieron mentions as feeling more disconnected with a mouse than a touchscreen.

    For those about to purchase Superbrothers on Steam, check out this page of issues and fixes: http://pcgamingwiki.com/wiki/Superbrothers:_Sword_%26_Sworcery_EP

  3. Hentzau says:

    Counter-review: I thought Swords and Sworcery was complete tripe devoid of anything resembling form, substance, wit or charm, instead relying on a series of tired memes, references and injokes to carry the day. If you are interested in games as games and not as some transcendent drug-induced “experience” that isn’t particularly invested in entertaining you in any way, you should probably avoid this game.

    • AshEnke says:

      Kinda agree with this, although I wouldn’t be so blunt.

      You just hold your left mouse button (I had to create a macro for that, it’s bloody exhausting) for 5 minutes, while your excruciatingly slow character walks across the screen. Then repeat while you walk the same path again, only the other way around.

      It’s kinda like Dear Esther, but with less substance.

      Yeah sure it’s beautiful pixel-art, with a great soundtrack, but it’s so boring and empty !

      • flowsnake says:

        You can double click to move in the point-and-click way.

        • AshEnke says:

          Yeah but if you double click on a place that isn’t exactly a path, it does nothing. So I often had to double click several times to move my character. And then double click again and again as the scrolling scrolls.
          I found the UI and controls extremely unpleasant to be honest.

      • Urthman says:

        WADS moves the screen around, double click where you want to go. Sit back and take another sip of your beverage. Listen to music. Repeat. I’m liking it.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      Counter-counter-review-wot-I-think? I’m enjoying the hell out of it. I love when I walk through a scene that I have been through many times over, taking in the sounds, and then I notice little bits of animation in the scenery that I might have missed the first few times. I like the characters and my interactions with them, and so far pretty much every aspect of it.

      It’s trippy and I dig it like it’s nineneen-seventy-eight.

      • Hentzau says:

        I’ve been told I’m being particularly blunt about this game in several places, so I just want to say I don’t begrudge you your enjoyment at all! If you’re enjoying Swords then that’s great, and if Swords looks like something you might enjoy then that is also great. I just wanted to make clear that if you’re anything like me it’s an experience far more likely to enrage you than entertain you.

        • rustybroomhandle says:

          Of course. :)

          I will leave this here though: A creative work that causes such divided opinions is infinitely better than some lukewarm focus-grouped-to-death middle-ground-finding product of genius marketing designed to sell as many copies as possible.

        • bjohndook says:

          You are blunt and honest, and right in a way, if you enjoy levels, and stats and truly the gratifications games today prime people to get used to – you are totally barking up the wrong tree.

    • Cooper says:

      “If you are interested in games as games and not as some transcendent drug-induced “experience” … ”

      Replace games in that sentence with music and can you not see how hollow that exhortation is? Syd Barrett would have heard similar things.

      There’s clearly a conservative attitude at work here that will always bounce off of anything not easily compartmentalised. Critique the game for its flaws (it has many) but not because it’s a square peg to your round-holed “game” classification.

      Returning to the music analogy. Pink Floyd were / are shit. But for many more interesting reasons than that they do not fit what your gran would call music.

      • Hentzau says:

        If you can explain what separates Swords from, I don’t know, a 1990s FMV game, I’d be much obliged. Games like that which focus on style over substance were rightly pilloried in the past; my problem with Swords is that it’s a game you watch, not a game you play, and it’s not very interesting to watch, either.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Games are defined, at their most basic level, by interaction. It’s the only characteristic that separates them from not-games.

        Low interaction means there’s very little game in this particular piece of electronic media.

        P.S. Pink Floyd are awesome. But not a particularly good example of pushing the boundaries of what music is.

        • Grygus says:

          Wait, what? In the 60s and 70s Pink Floyd were pushing boundaries like almost nobody else. Okay, okay this is completely off-topic. Sorry.

        • Kieron Gillen says:

          I’m not exactly sure where the “Low interaction” thing is coming from. It’s as interactive as most adventure games. More so in many respects.

          • yutt says:

            “Most adventure games” being key? Adventure games? I’m certain many of us have little exposure to such things, spoke of in legend from another time. All I can compare to are every other game genre, which generally require far more constant action and reaction on the part of the user.

            I’m probably on the older end of the spectrum for the average user on this site, and adventure games were simply a genre I was never exposed to. If this is representative of that genre, it certainly seems to lean more toward interactive art than gaming, in my understanding.

      • Eddy9000 says:

        “There’s clearly a conservative attitude at work here that will always bounce off of anything not easily compartmentalised. Critique the game for its flaws (it has many) but not because it’s a square peg to your round-holed “game” classification”

        You’re clearly not familiar with Kieron’s writing are you…

    • N says:

      @Hentzau: Pretty much, yeah.

    • Meat Circus says:

      I don’t think you understand. One does not simply DISAGREE with Gillen.

    • Veritaas says:

      Completely agree. I went over my thoughts in a video review: youtu.be/AXnaFSHQG24

      • AshEnke says:

        I think you put your finger on the exact thing I was feeling while playing this : It’s not really a game, but a really long and rather beautiful vaguely-interactive video clip for the soundtrack.

    • DickSocrates says:

      Funny how whenever a game tries to be deep and provide an ‘experience’ it’s suddenly assumed you need to take drugs to get it (with the implicit suggestion you’d be an idiot to bother). Don’t know about you, but I can quite easily engage with with surreal and dreamlike sensibilities without needing to be off my head.

      And you know what? There are enough ‘game’ games already. It is allowed that there are other ways of approaching interactive fiction.

    • bill says:

      Oh good, it’s the old “game” vs “interactive experience” thing again.

      I’m obviously weird because I like both.

  4. webwielder says:

    What do “PC gamers” get out of referring to Apple products dismissively or disrespectfully? Is just saying iOS or iPad that painful?

    • Blackcompany says:

      An associate of mine recently set aside $2200 for an Apple Macbook.

      I bought my last gaming rig (being too fat-fingered and impatient to build one) for half that, a little less.

      Mine plays games on high and ultra, handles multimedia without a hitch and is fully upgradeable by me, without ever having someone else work on it, and with a variety of competitively priced peripherals.

      His, on the other hand…well, it plays movies. And he can do photoshop type stuff. And check his email.

      He committed to a product with a piece of fruit on the front and a power cord not out of reason but because he was swayed to make an emotional decision based on ad campaigns. So yeah…I get a funny out of talking about those almost-gaming-laptops for twice the price, with the funny logo.

      But its nothing personal.

      • Meat Circus says:

        Did you just compare a desktop to a laptop as if it’s a meaninful comparison?

        Recently, PC OEMs have been trying and failing to compete on specs and price with Apple’s flagship MacBook Air and iPad.

        Tim Cook has the component supply chain locked down so tight PC users have to pay higher prices for inferior hardware. The PC tax, if you will.

        • El_Spartin says:

          Really? I just looked up the Macbook Air to see it’s specs. They aren’t very good. No professional would ever use that thing to make movies, it simply isn’t powerful enough or even have enough storage space to be practical. It is advanced sure, but it’s a waste of $1k+ for something that starts out behind the times in terms of technological power.

          Whereas I can pay about the same to have a machine with far more power and still be a laptop(really though, the better option is to buy a tower/minitower for ~$700ish and just crush the Air to bits in terms of sheer computing power)

          I’ll grant that the IPad has the lion’s share of the market as far as tablets are concerned, but the Macbook Air is a fancy piece of garbage.

        • Meat Circus says:

          Try to find an Ultrabook that beats the Air on specs and price. It’s a fun game.

          • drewski says:

            I don’t know about the US, but in Australia, Dell Ultrabooks are either cheaper, higher specced for the same price, or higher specced *and* for cheaper than the competing model Air (ie Dell’s flagship Ultra packs an i7 for $1700 – you pay $1800 for the best Air and only get an i5).

            I’m sure if I could be bothered I could find a cheaper Ultrabook given the Dell price premium.

            And the cheapest MacBook Pro I could find is over twice the price of the entry level Acer I bought a month or so ago. Sure, it has an i5 instead of an i3 and Bluetooth, but otherwise, you’re paying AUD$850 extra for OSX and a logo. Given I could get an 15″ Acer with an i7 and dedicated graphics for AUD$1000, the $1400 sticker price for the entry level, i5 + HD3000 13″ MacBook looks…steep.

        • Kalain says:

          Really?

          i’ve just paid around £800 for quite a monster of a PC, including monitor and OS. For a similar Specc’ed Mac, I would’ve have had to had paid over £1000…

          I don’t think Apple have the components locked down, as I doubt Intel and Nvidia won’t do Apple’s bidding, so I think you are talking rubbish.

        • yougurt87 says:

          I encourage you to actually prove someone wrong on that. His statement makes perfect valid sense. If I spend twice as much on a laptop as I would on a desktop, I expect a comparable experience, not a watered down brand name. For instance lets us compare a 17″ base Macbook, to that of a 17″ Alienware.

          http://imgur.com/a/7dklb

          If you notice the Apple kind of compares, except for things like the lack of a dedicated GPU, less ram, and a slower CPU (just to point out a few things.) Add in the fact that a Mac can only play a fraction of the games a PC can play, the lack of things like DVI or HDMI out (without purchasing the adapter.), and the fact that it costs $500 more than the Alienware. So I am confused as to what you are talking about when you say they fail at specs and price compared to apple.

          TL;DR: PLEASE know what you are talking about before you do so.

          • rustybroomhandle says:

            Not really interested in the debate here, but as a Linux user (and gamer) have to object to the phrasing “can only play a fraction of the games a PC can play”. What you really mean is that the choice of available games is more limited. It’s not a failing of the platform, it’s a failing of those making the software.

          • yougurt87 says:

            @rustybroomhandle Although I believe what I said still applies, I do get what you are saying and next time I shall phrase it better.

          • DickSocrates says:

            It would be about as difficult to persuade a religious extremist terrorist to see things your way as it would be to make an Apple devotee/cult member understand they are massively overpaying in order to join a club, not purchase a piece of machinery.

            Basic way to approach life: If lots of people are doing something, don’t do it.

          • LionsPhil says:

            *breathes*

          • TCM says:

            “Basic way to approach life: If lots of people are doing something, don’t do it.”

            Congratulations, you are now a hipster. Enjoy criticizing the mainstream just for being mainstream, hating music that’s popular, and accusing indie game studios who make a lot of money of selling out.

          • JimBennett says:

            As a “devotee/cult member” I can say that I put much less thought into your platform than you do into mine. I don’t need to be “persuaded” of anything. I know where and why I am spending my money, and I don’t need anyone’s help with that. You PC users are always so pushy.

      • webwielder says:

        I wonder why my Mac plays games. Do you think it might be broken?

        • Skabooga says:

          How can you tell if your Mac is broken? If it exists.

          But in all seriousness, the war between Microsoft and Apple has been going on for decades, and it’s just as ridiculous now as it was then. Both sides have taken pot-shots at each other over the years, but little to none is said with any malice. It is much like the dynamic with rival sporting teams, to have an arbitrarily chosen rival to compete against for no other reason than the thrill of the sport.

    • Durkonkell says:

      It’s not just apple products, one of the RPS jokes is referring to all other not-PC platforms in such a way. I recall one post referring to the Three Hundred and Sixtieth Box of X and the Third Station of Play.

      See Also: Foot-to-ball.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Man, people who use footballs are such posers. What can a football do that a PC desktop can’t? I bet I could kick my desktop just as hard as some hipster with a football.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Hurray, this debate. There are many things to like about Apple – the OS is the best all-round OS I’ve used, although now I use Ubuntu as I’m prepared to put up with the slight brokenness – the hardware is well designed, if you go round and try out various laptops in a shop (sure, the iMac is woefully pointless) – and like people have said, you’re paying for a high-end product, much as you pay more at Waitrose or at a name-brand clothes store or if you buy a slightly nicer car. Whether or not it’s worth it is a matter of taste. Is the more expensive food at M&S worth it? Depends.

      Equally, they’re just computers – they don’t do anything a computer doesn’t do, they break just as often as a PC and cost more when they do, and the company itself is just as full of arseholes at the top as any other tech firm. Evangelising either way is just tiresome.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      I don’t know about anyone else, but people willing to pay the prices for (new) iPads simply will never be viewed as sane by me by any standard.

      Add to this that they are willing to queue up on the street in front of stores to overpay hardware because its pretty and trendy and zomgnewapplemusthas and you’ve really gone out of this world in terms of sillyness for me.

      If you pay 1-400% more for a product not because it IS better, but because it “feels” better..(Do you know the margin on iPhones? It puts drugs to shame.)

      Easily emotionally overwhelmed victims.

  5. Blackcompany says:

    Kieron mentions herein that the game strives to keep a sense of wonder intact. Something that’s missing in too many games, these days, that is. And something I loved about Bastion, that sense of mystery and wonder.

    Games that arouse curiosity are too few and far between. Bethesda lathers up a huge baseball bat, wraps story pages around it and knocks you upside the head with it in the first 2 hrs of game play. You never wonder about the path you are on, why you walk it or where it will lead. You’re the hero, destined to be, and that’s how this all ends.

    Contrast that to games like Bastion. Why is this world demolished and in pieces? How did it happen? Who set it in motion? What was the world like before? Will I ever know? Who is the kid, and the mysterious narrator? The sense of wonder and mystery drove me through Bastion like a wild person…I could not wait to discover another portion of the mystery.

    I wish more developers would learn from this. Witcher 2 was pretty good at narrative and story and keeping up the mystery. Not perfect, but good. Its too rare, and I do wish someone would strive to bring it back again.

    • Cooper says:

      Curiosity requires an engaging world to be curious of.

      Post-Apocalyptic or generic fanatsy trope worlds are Bethesda’s bread and butter; they’re so woven into cultural expectations of certain genre norms that it’s difficult to be curious.

      The only interesting thing (which wasn’t even Bethesda’s) was the retro-futurism of the pre-post-apocalypse of Fallout. The history of the post-acpoalypse not being the present but rather the future histories of a past culutral imaginary. It’s an indication of the lack of imagination that this, which could have produced incredibly strong moments of story telling, rarely pushed beyond “funny robots like from the 60s comics. And cars are nuclear!!”…

    • yutt says:

      Your comparison to Bastion is perfect. The Bastion writer very deliberately recognized the power of mystery. Our wonder and yearning to know more is powerful. It is the creation of mythology, where we feel there is an endless implied depth to the world. An author this immediately makes me think of is Lovecraft.

      As Cooper noted, first the authors have to create something compelling and unique enough for us to feel intrigued by.

      RPS: Did you find yourself fighting the impulse to put in more exposition?

      Kasavin: Actually I think the story represents my entire philosophy toward story-telling in a way, my attitude towards exposition has been to make up the bread-crumb trail, rather than to load information up front. It’s better to have the player intrigued and half-starved for answers than to bombard them with information that they are probably not going to process because he doesn’t even care!

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/10/05/be-heartening-a-bastion-interview/

      • NathanH says:

        I dunno, I kinda like games that have a lot of exposition and story as early as the manual itself, too. That approach probably requires more effort, though, so it’s easier to make it lazy and bad.

        • wu wei says:

          Which goes to show how much of this is a matter of taste, as I find exposition to be a lazy way of story telling.

          I don’t think I’ve ever read flavour text in a manual; if the game isn’t capable of communicating its story to me within the context of the game itself, then I consider that to be bad storytelling. I honestly think getting some hack to generate a few thousand words of scene setting text is a [i]lot[/i] easier than having a game carry narrative through its gameplay & mechanics.

          • NathanH says:

            That’s what I tried to say, although I see that my phrasing was not good. I meant to say something like “it takes more effort to do exposition well, so it is common for people to take the easy and lazy approach of doing exposition badly, hence why it often seems to be worse.”

    • NathanH says:

      Morrowind was pretty good for this sort of thing. Oblivion, Skyrim, and Fallout are much more generic settings, as pointed out above, hence are aiming for a different atmosphere entirely.

    • Highstorm says:

      While I understand what you’re saying and think it applies to the main quest in any TES game, I rather think Bethesda has done a fantastic job of weaving a very interesting and mysterious history into their settings. Every time I enter a Dwemer ruin, questions begin swirling in my head. Who were they? What were they really like? Why did they build things like this? How does their technology even work? And most importantly, what caused an entire race to disappear off the face of Tamriel instantly – and what exactly happened?

      That’s just one of many unsolved mysteries built into their lore, that you can discover bits and pieces about through various quests, books and locations throughout each game. Yeah the main quest is there, and yeah it’s straightforward and demystifying, but the game is set up so you can completely ignore it and still get 300+ hours of play out of the game.

    • Gap Gen says:

      The Bastion parallel is interesting, though, because Bastion very overtly has a game at its core, and I’m not convinced that this game does to the same degree. Or maybe as people say, it does, it’s just a point-and-click adventure rather than an action RPG.

  6. Shadrach says:

    I absolutely love it, the music makes the hair rise on my back, just lovely. The mouse controls feel a bit awkward but perfectly acceptable.

    After Witcher 2′s endless dialogues this is a most welcome change for me as well :)

  7. yutt says:

    I am only on part 2, but I’ve found it enjoyable so far. I can see how many “gamers” would immediately reject it, however. It alludes to games, to being a game, but I feel hesitant to call it one. I don’t know how to explain my opinion on it without sounding trite and turning people off. I would unironically and reverently describe it is an interactive audio-visual experience more than a video game.

    God that sounds pretentious and boring, and being I am an archetypal gamer myself, I can see how easily someone would dismiss the Sword & Sworcery as exactly that. Maybe it is.

    Sword & Sworcery is meditation to other games’ catharsis. That is the best way I can articulate it.

  8. BooleanBob says:

    Gillen, Florence and Stone all in the one afternoon! It’s a red letter day at Castle Shotgun, all right.

  9. Nuclear Frisson says:

    Grizzled Boor penis? That explains the Scythian’s nudist comment.

  10. Visualante says:

    It’s 25% off, I was a bit surprised nobody made an issue of it being cheaper on the app store than on Steam. But I guess it’s so cheap nobody cared about price parity.

  11. Buttless Boy says:

    God, I missed Kieron and his really very nice writing. Time to buy a bunch of Journey Into Mystery back issues, I guess?

  12. Lilliput King says:

    It had to be Kieron reviewing this really didn’t it.

  13. President Weasel says:

    Did Killer Gieron’s article mention that if you buy the game on Steam you get the soundtrack for nowt? And that game + free soundtrack together cost less than the soundtrack alone costs on itunes?
    I haven’t even played the game yet and I am still chuffed to bits I bought it, because of several days of money’s worth from the music.
    (your results may vary)
    (also maybe he mentioned it and I missed it)
    (also, brackets).

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Ah, I forgot. Will edit.

    • yutt says:

      The Sword & Sworcery soundtrack was also partk of the Game Music Bundle 2. I had forgotten that until copying the files from my Steam directory, only to find I already had them.

      Also, the Game Music Bundle 2 was fucking amazing. So many good soundtracks included. Sword & Sworcery, Jamestown, and To The Moon’s soundtracks alone are amazing, but then there are 15 more. It was criminal how good of a deal it was.

      I pity all of you who didn’t buy it.

      • President Weasel says:

        Aw yutt, now I am mildly sad at missing out on a thing that I didn’t even know existed before.
        Ah well, I’ll soldier bravely on.

  14. Visualante says:

    It’s nice that they include it, but I was just buying a game. I wouldn’t take kindly to being handed a book at extra cost when attending a Harry Potter.

  15. Unaco says:

    So Kieron… does this mean that now you’ve finished filming the new season of Dr Who, and your character has left, that you’ll be coming back to RPS? Back to the warm, inviting folds…

  16. La Flea says:

    I’m halfway through and I’m loving this “game” / audiovisual experience.

    But the self-aware-hipster dialog is just really taking me out of the immersion that the developers seem to be aiming for? Are they drawing attention to how bad dialog has just gotten in most contemporary games? If that’s the case and they are being political, I’d rather them make a game according to their principles rather than use a “game” to argue their point.

    But as an experience, they’ve hit something.

  17. genosse says:

    How does this compare to a game like botanicula?

    I played that one yesterday and enjoyed it immensley, but for some reason Sword and Sworcery seems to be rather pretentious instead of charming and funny, although it would fit right into the “artsy adventure” niche.

    I can’t quite point my finger on it, but somehow it feels like it’s just art for art’s sake without much substance (like Dear Esther in my opinion). So I guess my question is: Is it fun to play, or is it just a game to feel “really deep” after being bored for 5 hours.

    Bonus pixel art: http://www.effectgames.com/demos/canvascycle/

  18. asshibbitty says:

    Keep reminding myself to finish it. It’s one of these games you need headphones on to enjoy and the headphones never seem to exist in the same area as the iPad. 

    What I did play of it felt fractured. Too many visual styles mashed together, too many play styles, jerky writing, music that comes as fast as it goes, all pretty shallow. Sort of compelling like quickly scanning through an art exhibition, but none of the separate parts are all that good, yet they don’t combine to form something bigger. Maybe they do later idk.

    Oh yeah, more Kieron if possible. 

  19. Urthman says:

    If someone is stupid enough to allow a game posting access to their twitter account, I have a hard time blaming the game for the results.

  20. Eclipse says:

    my review: very fancy pixels, but very little game.

  21. Urthman says:

    Superbrothers Less Talk More Rock Hall of Fame:

    Lazy Jones, 1984. Metroid Prime, 2002. Rez, 2001. Motorstorm: Pacific Rift, 2008. flOwer, 2009. Everyday Shooter, 2007. Ico, 2001. Super Mario Bros., 1985. Another World, 1991. Prince of Persia, 1989. Demon’s Souls, 2009.

    Motorstorm: Pacific Rift?!? Why?

  22. The Innocent says:

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only person to note the “hidden objects game” similarity.

    Good review, Mr Gillen.

  23. Craig Stern says:

    Great analysis, very well written–and with a far more generous interpretation of that “Less Talk” shpiel than I had. (Given the grizzled boor penis, perhaps they ultimately settled on Less Talk More Cock?)

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      When going into someone dropping a manifesto, generally speaking I go looking for what they’re thinking rather than trying to pick it apart. Manifestos are creatures of passion and all that.

  24. JackShandy says:

    Superbrothers is a beautiful, meditative game that needs to shut up about how beautiful and meditative it is.

    Every time you do something awesome, the game pauses and some text pops up. “Wasn’t that an awesome thing you just did?” it says, in a twee style. “Would you like to tweet about how awesome that was?”

    Every piece of text should have been expunged. No exceptions.

  25. Maldomel says:

    I’m planning to play it the way it’s intended, with pauses in between, and maybe that month thing you talked about.
    I really feel that if I don’t take it as an experience, something will break and I won’t enjoy it as much as I probably should.

  26. Crudzilla says:

    This game is just pretentious. And that irritates me. Also, it’s not very good at what it tries to do. I really don’t understand why the gaming press are fawning over it. The emperor’s new game?

  27. nemryn says:

    Man, I was already sold on the game itself, I just want to know if the Steam version is okay.

  28. jamesgecko says:

    I feel that I would enjoy the game more if any effort whatsoever had been put into changing the game’s controls to work better on PC. Could combat have worked if there was a direct mapping of sword and shield onto mouse buttons instead of on-screen buttons that must be clicked on in real time? Would it really have been so bad to move by single clicking? Or pan the zoomed-in view without clicking and dragging? It makes movement feel laborious and tedious, especially using a laptop trackpad. Even the menu shows signs of lack of thought; with items requiring clicking twice instead of hover and then click.

    • Baines says:

      Having only played the PC version, I say that it is a mediocre game killed by a poor interface.

      The PC interface just kills any interest I have in continuing the game. To be fair, I don’t know how much of that is the game itself being mediocre and how much is the interface just being bad. It could be the game itself is better than I think, and the interface is much more damaging than I’ve given it credit for.

  29. harvb says:

    A game with a review that name-checks just about all the formative ones from my youth deserves a play. Kier, can we have one next that mentions Fairlight or Panzadrome? Chars.

  30. FakeKisser says:

    I just finished Session 3 on the iPad, and I have to say that this game has frustrated me more than so many other games. I really liked the game during Session 1, and I found it almost as enjoyable in Session 2. However, about halfway through Session 3, I got completely lost and had to use a Walkthrough several times to figure out how to finish it. I am still trying to figure out how I was supposed to know to do a couple things. The Superbrothers apparently wanted to stay away from old-school adventure game puzzles (according to the latest Double Fine Adventure video). However, I think that the puzzles in S&S are so much worse, because there is little to no indication of what is supposed to happen next or how to do certain things. Many things are basic and easy to figure out, but even 2 things that drive me to a Walkthrough really frustrates me. :/ I hope Session 4 mends the experience for me, because, at this point, I would not recommend this game.

  31. pertusaria says:

    Just played through this, having got it in the Humble Bundle a month or so ago. I enjoyed it, but although the movement was very straightforward for most of the game, I found the speed-walking suggested toward the end didn’t work well for me. There were one or two cases in which less repetition (when you’ve made a mistake, not if you do everything perfectly first time) would’ve been nice.

    All in all, an interesting experience, and despite the simplicity, one which will stay with me.

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