Before 2011, the indie team at Capybara Games was known for creating colorful characters in puzzle based worlds. Their award winning hits Critter Crunch and Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes were prime examples of simple gameplay mechanics, dressed in artfully crafted visuals, that delivered a surprising amount of depth. When Capy launched the then iOS exclusive Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP in 2011, they caught the entire world off guard.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery is a game that feels familiar and evokes memories of point-and-click PC adventures and even a little bit of Zelda II: The Adventures of Link. But for a game that feels like it should play in a traditional manner, it constantly surprises with clever direction cues, provocative music and stellar ambiance, and a visual style that is one-of-a-kind. In its simplest form, #Sworcery (as it is affectionately referred to) is an 8-bit progressive rock adventure.
I played through the first session to get a feel for the game prior to writing this entry. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect beyond the gorgeously detailed 8-bit landscapes and very smartly designed animations. Aesthetically, #Sworcery thrives on contradiction. The game is vibrant, yet its color palette is dominated by shades of grey. The smooth animations convey power and emotion regardless of the limitations of its 8-bit design. Bushes move as the Scythian brushes past, her reflection shines in a nearby lake and lightning darts across the dimly lit dusk.
All the while, a moody instrumental medley of guitar, drums and synthesizers hums in the background, shifting the mood from playful curiosity, to frantic danger, to absolute fear. Jim Guthrie’s work on #Sworcery’s soundtrack is absolutely incredible and is critical to the game’s tone and setting.
As an adventure game, #Sworcery has all the traditional descriptions of objects throughout its world with live combat being something that sets itself apart. By rotating your handheld device vertically (right mouse click for Steam versions) the Scythian will unsheathe their sword. Combat is carried out by pressing the shield or sword icon to parry and attack an opponents opening. It is a bit clumsy at first, but the mechanics are easy to learn and never get complex.
Even as I write this, I am recalling an incredible moment towards the end of the first session. The combination of the moody soundtrack, the perfectly balanced 8-bit sprite design and the tension involved in retrieving the Megatome led to a truly exhilarating experience. My heart raced and I felt legitimate panic as I scrambled back through the caves and into the forest. It is a feeling I won’t easily forget and never expected from a game with such a simple facade.
#Sworcery is such a gem of a game that it begs to be played, just to experience its fantastic tone. With the game now out on PC, Mac and Android, in addition to both iPad and iPhone native versions it is something that is easily attainable. Not to mention the game is currently free in commemoration of the fifth birthday of the Apple App Store then there really is no excuse. #Sworcery will be known as one of the landmark games of this era.