Sit back, pop in your headphones, and let the sounds transport you to another world: A world of Sword & Sworcery. You will embark on a surreal adventure where you will play music on the trees, bring loathsome rainbows to life, and slap the moon in the face as you seek to tame the Cosmic Geometry known as the Trigons.
Okay, that sounds a little trippy, but this adventure game for iOS and Android really is a fascinating “psychosocial audiovisual experiment,” as its narrator calls it. Mixing subtly detailed 8-bit graphics with one of the best soundtracks in gaming history, it completely immerses you in its world. Even the sound effects make it seem more real, from the splash your feet make on wet mud to the chirping of distant birds. Needless to say, headphones are required – not optional – to properly experience this game.
You enter the world as The Cythian, a warrior woman who has traveled far in search of the Megatome, a book containing the power of Sworcery. You soon meet a woodcutter named Logfella who leads you to the forbidden resting place of the tome. But in the process of taking it, you awaken a great evil that drapes the land in darkness. To set things right you must journey across the land and through dreams, clash swords with monsters and solve puzzles with the power of Sworcery.
So, what is all this Sworcery stuff anyway? Glad you asked. Listen carefully and you will occasionally hear a magical bubbling sound that indicates there is a puzzle for you to solve nearby. That’s when you activate your Sworcery by holding down on your character. At this point, there’s no telling what you might have to do. Clues are dropped by talking to characters sometimes, but you often just have to experiment with the screen and see what has a musical reaction to your touch and figure it out from there. You may have to tap a series of birds in the correct order, or drag the sun into proper alignment, or even wait for the proper moon phase. It sounds tricky, but it’s more engaging than difficult. And if you ever get stuck, you can pop a psychedelic mushroom to make all the interactive bits clearly visible.
Also at your disposal are your trusty sword and shield. When danger appears and combat must be had, turn your device vertically to engage. Combat consists of only an Attack and Block button, but knowing when to use them depends on your rhythm as well as reflexes. Enemies have tells, such as banging their shield a number of times, that give away how they will attack, and there’s usually only a short opening for you to strike back. Attacks almost always happen in time with the music, so you can often just sense when one is coming. The final effect is a dramatic battle despite the minimalist approach.
Most of the experience of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, however, is exploring the world, talking to characters and feeling the music. Long scenes where you are simply following a character through the woods are welcome as they are accompanied by groovy tracks that make your journey seem cinematic. Even major battles often have long scenes of the enemy simply powering up between attacks. But the impressive organ hymn turns what could be boring into a moment of, “Whoa, this enemy’s for real!”
Each of 4 chapters are 30 to 45 minutes long, which makes for a relatively short game overall, but each chapter provides a unique experience that breaks all kinds of boundaries in gaming. I strongly recommend picking it up, and now that it’s on Android as well as iPhone and iPad, there’s no excuse for anyone to miss it. I also recommend looking up Jim Guthrie’s soundtrack to the game, which is fine listening on its own.