Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery EP Micro

Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery EP - iPhone

Swords & Sworcery was the first iPhone game I had a real expectation of pre-release. Cruel, then, that it was released on iPad first. But hey ho, the anticipation is all part of the enjoyment. And I was happy enough to wait: it looked cool, seemed to have an interesting attiude, and Jim Guthrie was involved (see the album ‘Alone at the Microphone’ by Royal City).

Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery EP - iPhone

All those things are still true. The visual style is distinctive, consistent and beautful – in a blocky sort of way. The music is atmospheric, varied, and utterly integrated with the graphics and action. Together they build a charming atmosphere.

Then there’s that attitude: knowing; very ‘meta’, if you’ll forgive the term. In execution it ranges from amusing to downright off-putting. It’s all very well undermining the sometimes po-faced adventure genre, but undermining your own engaging atmosphere is not clever.

Especially when atmosphere is what the game’s mainly about. There’s a quest behind it of course – jobs to do, foes to vanquish – but it’s fairly skeletal, and a touch on the repetitive side. But just when you’re getting a bit sick of backtracking, battling the same couple of varieties of bad things, and solving the same basic puzzles, it throws you a treat.

Superbrothers: Swords & Sworcery EP - iPhone

There are a couple of pure revelations, when what’s possible in the game’s world expands completely. But just as pleasing are the smaller moments: discovering a new mechanic, subtle riffs on familiar puzzles, a visual or aural delight.

There’s guidance along the way, to the point that you generally know your character’s task, but not necessarily how you as a player make that happen. It’s curious: working out what makes the game tick is simultaneously satisfying and frustrating.

That’s what the game comes down to, ultimately: trying to understand the very specific vision the developers had. I’m not convinved that it’s a completely successfully realised vision, but it’s certainly worthy of investigation.