Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP ($9.99) is pure brilliance in every area, but the game wisely notes in its end credits it’s probably not going to be for every taste. Still, if you’re wanting a nicely droll, somewhat cerebral, amusing and completely hip masterpiece, you’ll just love what’s here. For example: Right after its opening section (which takes between 15 to 30 minutes to complete), a cigarette (or is that a cigar?) smoking character called The Archtype appears and tells you to return later after taking a break as a pair of curtains close and you’re sent back to the title screen. I actually didn’t go back to the game at that point. Instead, I put my Switch back into its dock, turned it off and went to make lunch. When I came back about an hour later, I felt as if that break was indeed justified because the game did such a clever job of getting me hooked in enough that I followed that silly instruction.
That silly instruction turned out to be a lot less so when later on, the game asks you to come back to it when the in-game moon phase is at the right spot to activate a certain task. Again, brilliant. The game is an adventure/puzzle hybrid that pays homage to The Legend of Zelda, a bit of Robert E. Howard, Carl Jung and a bunch of neat other things you may or may not see on the surface. Not to sound overly pompous or anything, but here’s a game that cleverly nods and winks at those who get it, but is totally playable by just about anyone who can use a Switch and is a bit curious about what’s in store for them.
There’s a story here about your sword and shield bearing adventurer needing to gather three Trigon pieces to defeat the demon thing she awakened during the tutorial (oops), but this is a case where the plot is less important that the journey taken. Most of the time played will be spent on puzzles using the game’s Sworcery skills that awakens helpful sprites spread throughout the assorted maps. Combat is here, but this isn’t a game with a large set of moves. Save for a few “boss” fights, you really won’t need to worry about dying in battle and in some cases, fighting can be bypassed entirely.
Seven years after its iOS debut, the game still looks wonderful. Well. unless you hate pixel art and think games that use it are coming from “lazy” or “broke” developers (in which case, I reserve the right to chuckle at that sort of disrespect). What works here is the blend of artists and design team, plus a pretty phenomenal Jim Guthrie soundtrack and sound design all meshing together to create a completely spellbinding experience. You can play with the Joy-Cons or a controller, in point and click style, or touchscreen only, switching it up on the fly if you like. I found the touchscreen worked best for much of the game, although I ended up changing the character movement in the options to the left stick over the default right one when I did use a controller.
While not really difficult, the biggest challenge comes from some of the puzzles that may have you baffled for a brief period until you see where Sworcery needs to be used. Even then, some areas have spots that need to be activated in a certain order or will require you to do a bit of thinking to tackle where to go next. That said, the game rewards some exploration in spots while locking you out of other areas temporarily until you do a bit of Sworcery-related tasks. It’s also a case where everything the game rolls your way in terms of lore is worth a read. Characters reveal a few gameplay tips and/or bits of humor and the game kind of never lets you forget you’re playing a game as it references certain tasks you tackle as fairly mundane quests.
So yes, this one’s a buy because it’s just a great game that’s well-made and quirky enough to hold your attention with its visual and aural greatness. That and any game that has you come back to it at a mandated time and manages to make that task so involving is pretty genius. Highly recommended.
Score: A- (95%)
Review code provided by the publisher