iPhone/iPad review of the day: Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP redefines retro adventure

On iPhone
Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP
Price: $2.99
Size: 134 MB
Get it now on iTunes: US (opens in new tab) / UK (opens in new tab)

On iPad

Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery EP

Price: $4.99

Size: 135 MB

Get it now on iTunes: US (opens in new tab) / UK (opens in new tab)

Most iPhone or iPad games can easily be compared to another, better known game that it echoes, such as "Hey, you'll like this if you loved Super Mario!" or "This will really appeal to fans of the Sonic series." Not this time. Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery may be an adventure game, but beyond that, it defies comparison. A strange, beautiful experience, you'll find yourself wandering and enjoying just how much you can't put your finger on what's going on. Best of all, you must play this game with headphones, because it really does have a soundtrack worth writing home about.

Superbrothers Sword & Sworcery is a point and click adventure game, and as you can imagine, all your movement is controlled with the touch of a finger. With art from Craig D. Adams and music from Jim Guthrie, the game was designed to be not only a physical and visual experience, but also an aural one. As you navigate this dark world, you'll find areas you can tap to learn a bit more about your quest. You'll notice as you scale mountains and move through forests that the game’s retro look is not only distinctive, but also very beautiful, a pleasure to look at as well as play.

You will take on the role of a character called The Scythian, who will meet several people as she moves through the game world. You get the feeling as you meet these people that each of them is hiding secrets, and there's something wonderfully inaccessible about all of them. It fits perfectly with the mood of the game, which makes you feel as if you're literally wandering in a wood in search of answers to a great journey.

Early in the game, you'll get your hands on a book of divine sorcery called the Megatome. Doing so sort of awakened this death god demon thing that's now in hot pursuit of you, and the only way to stop horrible things from happening is to destroy this book once and for all. As you can imagine, that's going to be no easy task. Oh, but as long as you have it, the Megatome enables you to read the thoughts of the other characters in the game, which could end up being awesome or totally terrifying depending on how you slice it.

To complete the adventure, you need to make use of two modes: the regular one where you hold the iPhone horizontally and use your ability to sing a song by touching the screen, which is called "Sworcery mode", and “Sword” mode, which requires you to turn the phone vertically and normally involves the use of a weapon. In the latter mode, your sword and shield will appear and can be tapped to be used. Sometimes you'll use this mode to hold your sword to the heavens and pull off some serious magic. Other times you'll actually be in a battle. You can just hack and slash if you want, but some enemies have certain patterns, so you're best off learning how to use both magic and might to your advantage.

It's worth mentioning that while some gamers felt that rotating the device to jump between these two modes seemed a bit awkward on iPad, it feels perfect on the iPhone (perhaps because of its smaller, easier to manage size). On the other hand, there are some scenes that are much harder to see. One puzzle with sheep in particular had us squinting to make sure we were tapping the right parts of the screen. The puzzles in Superbrothers are also often musical, and some will challenge you to play notes in a particular order, so we cannot stress enough that you should use headphones and immerse yourself in the world.

Superbrothers: S&S EP skillfully blends side-scrolling, puzzling and adventure with engaging writing and an unforgettable atmosphere. Most iPhone games are fun time wasters, but this one will impress you and make you think far beyond when you put the phone down. The game also uses Twitter compatibility in game, so when you get to important events you will have the options of tweeting them right from within the game. This is really cool, and it's a neat way to broadcast to your friends they should be playing this game too. And they should, all of them, because Superbrothers is really in a class all of its own.

May 2, 2010