You Should Play: Sword & Sworcery EP

[These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.]

I know, I know: It’s been out for a year. It’s had countless words devoted to it already. All of your friends have told you repeatedly, and at great length, that you are a fool for not playing it yet.

You know what? They’re absolutely right. Sword & Sworcery is one of the most ambitious gaming experiences on any platform, and, even more rare, it succeeds in its ambition.

Mechanically, Sword & Sworcery might remind you of classic adventure games from the ’80s or ’90s. Your character, the nameless Scythian, is summoned forth to recover the legendary Megatome, and do battle against an unspeakable evil. Along the way, you befriend a simple woodsman, along with his sister and loyal canine companion, and reassemble pieces of the Trigon Trifecta—all as a prelude to the final showdown.

If Sword & Sworcery were on your computer, you’d probably call it a point-and-click adventure, but on iOS, it’s obviously more of a tap-and-hold game. Play requires a bit of trial-and-error, but since you’re exploring this world, it all feels in service to the game. Not much is required in the way of reflexes either—what little combat there is doesn’t require a high degree of “twitchiness,” though you may need to think on your feet.

So what makes Sword & Sworcery so good that you need to immediately stop reading this article and download it to your iOS device?

Graphics: 8-bit retro graphics are in vogue, but Sword & Sworcery manages to not only use them to evoke the classic games of yesteryear, but also to imbue its characters with actual personality—more than you’d think possible from its pixelated, almost abstract design ethic. It’s about as far away from the Uncanny Valley as you can get, and there’s something even more compelling when your mind has to fill in the details.

Music: The game’s entire journey is accompanied by an ethereal soundtrack from musician Jim Guthrie, who manages to wring a magnificent symphonic resonance out of equal parts orchestra and synthesized music. There’s a reason that the EP moniker is attached to the game—the music is as much a part of a game as the play itself. I’d lay odds that you’ll find yourself humming some of the cues long after you put the game down—lucky for you, you can always go buy the soundtrack.

Tone: Spoken dialog is at a minimum in the game—most of the story is conveyed with onscreen text and the occasional sound effect. Despite its occasionally dark undertones, the game is surprisingly light-hearted. While I’m not usually one to take advantage of a game’s ability to broadcast via Twitter, Sword & Sworcery’s writing is good enough you’ll want to share it with your friends. And parts of it are genuinely moving; again no small feat for a game of its ilk.

Puzzles: Not all is straightforward. In order to recover the pieces of the Trigon Trifecta, you’ll have to use your little gray cells. While the puzzles will require a bit of brain-bending, I appreciated that they weren’t of the slam-your-head-against-your-iPad level of frustration. (I suspect my iPad appreciated that as well.) In particular, your somnolent sojourns into the dream world are aptly unearthly and yet somehow totally logical.

Developer: Capybara Games
Platform: iOS, PC (via Steam), coming to Mac
Price: $5 (universal); $3 (iPhone-only)

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