Within the next 24 hours everyone will finally be able to feast their eyes on Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. This game is the richest and most compelling experience I’ve had on my iPad to date. I’ll talk more about what makes this game special for me, but there’s something else I’d like to point out before I go there. S:S&S EP is the result of a three-way Toronto-based collaboration:
- Visual designer Craig “Superbrothers” Adam whose minimalist, modern pixellated style is unmistakably his.
- Game development studio Capy, who are responsible for my favorite DS game of all time, Clash of Heroes.
- Musician Jim Guthrie, a Toronto indie rock hero venturing into game development for the first time.
Having known Capy co-founders Nathan Vella and Kris Piotrowski for a few years now, I’m especially excited for them as this work represents the next step in their departure from work for hire and entry into self funded work over which they have total creative control. S:S&S EP is a great example of the wonderful things that can happen when creativity is left to creatives.
Anyway, here are five reasons I love S:S&S EP…
1. One-offs. Most game programmers like to make games with reusable systems because it allows them to effortlessly add new content without any programmer intervention. Angry Birds is a good example of this. They can crank out new content at breakneck speeds. S:S&S EP is the opposite of that. It is full of hand crafted moments, one-offs that someone conceived of, artist Craig Adams drew one pixel at a time, and programmer Frankie Leung implemented, creating code that is used in only one place in the game. These are moments that surprise in the most delightful ways because the game simply hasn’t prepared you for them. They exist in only one place in the game. In the present moment as you experience them. As a game developer there is no greater testament to the care and love that go into making a game than one-off moments because they simply don’t make sense from a budgeting or production point of view.
2. Effective use of music. The game’s “EP” suffix is well earned and I can only imagine that this is Jim Guthrie’s involvement that makes the soundscape of this game such an integral part of the experience. The game as a whole is structured as a record, having two “sides”. Music changes at places where you don’t expect (mid-screen, rather than during interstitials), and it does so in support of the player’s experience. The game also makes powerful use of silence, a side of music that is mostly ignored in video games.
3. Player awareness. As I played through, I constantly felt that the game is there as a friend, considerate and aware of me, suggesting that now may be a good time to take a break, and filling me in on where we left off as I returned for more. There are many small examples of this that I’d rather not elaborate on so as to not diminish the magic of the individual moments. Even the trailer (see below) weaves you, the player, into the experience of the game.
4. As much a toy as it is a game. There is no traditional menu to speak of. Every aspect of this game oozes a sense of discovery. Play around with what you see on the screen and see what happens. You don’t touch the start button, you find your way into the game instead. With the way the game makes use of the touch screen and accelerometers you find yourself not just playing with the game, but playing with the device itself.
5. Harmony. I just can’t think of a better word to describe the overall experience of connecting with this gem of a game. Get some head phones, find a comfortable place to sit, maybe a favorite chair in which you enjoy reading a book. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, and set aside some time to let yourself get absorbed.
If you’ve ever played and loved an adventure game as a kid, you owe it to yourself to play this wonderfully nuanced, all grown up, made-just-for-you game. You can get it here.