Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery

Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes isn't the only game that Capybara Games is famous for. Last year Capybara teamed up with Superbrothers to create a game called Superbrothers: Swords and Sworcery (not a typo) for the iOS (I should note that this game was ported to Steam a couple of weeks ago and this was the version I played). This was the first production from the Superbrothers and it went on to receive wide acclaim from critics, even leading to it winning the Independent Games Festival in Art (and unlike Fez, it actually deserved it).

The game is split into four episodes in the same model that TellTale games uses for their point-and-click adventure games. Unlike the formula that Telltale uses for Monkey Island and the later Sam & Max seasons, all four sessions are sold as one game which are more likely indicators of when to start and stop playing, and when the game is only about two hours long they make good stopping places. In fact the game directly refers to these as "sessions" where each chapters begins and concludes with a quaint analysis of the experience which can best be described as Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training mixed with fun gameplay.

The game can be described as a modern version of Another World. You control your character who is on an adventure in a mysterious world with no back-story and no reason to get to his destination. Like Another World, the character is a blank slate for the central character as the human mind clings to the most human like persona to relate to (this being said, in Another World, Lester was actually a human while in Superbrothers he isn't) and with that, the story begins.

Like Another World, the game focuses on exploration through the alien world however while Another World allows the use of the gun, Superbrothers lets you go into attack mode for individual scenes to progress. The majority of the game is puzzles in the non-intuitive sense that call back to the early Lucas Arts games and again, Another World. At the end of the first session you gain the titular "sworcery" power that allows you to enter another world... of vision and explore the area for tiny creatures that will give your character enough energy to enter the final zone in a way similar to how Ghost Trick works.

My biggest complaint with the game is its dialogue. Another World's (I feel bad comparing the game to it so much because there's a lot of new ideas in it but they're made even more clear in contrast) lack of text meant that the only way to communicate emotion to the player was through the visuals alone. The strange part is that Superbrothers also does this but the text contradicts what's going on. Examples of this include seemingly profound conversations with minor characters being replaced by quasi-colloquial jargon that doesn't need to be included in the game.

From my experiences with this and Might & Magic, I think the writing in Capybara's games could be improved (although I haven't played Critter Crunch and M&M & SS could be faulted from Ubisoft and the Superbrothers appropriately). As with Might & Magic, the text is easily skippable, and while it's a lot more prevalent in this game because of the shorter length, it doesn't ruin the experience and the game contains enough clever ideas to sustain two hours of game-time. If this review seems rather lackluster its because I'm trying not to give much of the game away. For such a short game a minor spoiler could constitute an entire session. The game is available on iOS and Steam for a cheap price so if you're are looking for a good way to spend an evening then I highly recommend it.

Buy it on iTunes | GooglePlay 

Developer: Capybara Games


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