Thursday, May 5, 2011

Sword and Sworcery EP: Audience Calibration Procedure

Goddamn you, Dragon Age II. You timesuck. You have stolen my limited gaming hours, leaving me bereft of the time I could have dedicated to playing something (anything) more worth my while. You fill me with rage. I continue to chip away at you but it makes me very mad that I am so powerless, and if I had greater control over my completi[oni]st faculties, I would read the spoilers and be done with you. O, that I had the power.

You’re going to have to forgive me because I’m not done complaining about Dragon Age II. The game seems to have no concept of the fact that it is as repetitive as it is long. The game is absolutely greedy in that way—with its underdeveloped characters and meaningless fetch quests (most of which, I might add, offer no discernible point of origin), the game seems to take for granted the engagement level of the player; for the entirety of the game’s second act I’ve felt bored to tears but compelled to press onward.

Forcing myself in a different direction, I picked up Capybara Games’ Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP for iPhone. Watching the game’s understated visual presentation claim the Achievement in Art award at the 2011 Independent Games Festival piqued my interest, and while I had little idea of what to expect from it, I found the game to be the perfect antidote for my Dragon Age blues.

When Sword and Sworcery’s first 30-minute “episode” concluded with a message that I ought perhaps take a break and come back to it later, I was a little surprised. Whereas DA2 had essentially overestimated my ability to remain engaged with its repetitive play, S:S&SEP was very much the opposite—it actually seemed like its primary concern was not in telling me its story, but in making sure I was enjoying it.

And it completely did the trick. The fact is that behind Sword and Sworcery’s more magical elements—its offbeat first-person plural narration, quirky sense of humor, fun battle system (and other uses of the iPhone’s accelerometer), and absolutely killer soundtrack—there’s not a ton of game there. The interface is mostly of the point-and-click variety (on a touch-screen, so I suppose there’s more pointing and less clicking), with some mild puzzle elements. But I absolutely didn’t care. The game’s pacing and aesthetic offer evidence of the great care given to creating the best-possible experience for the player, and I couldn’t appreciate it more. Sword and Sworcery EP is a game with a ton of heart. I cannot recommend it enough.
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