One to watch: new details on Superbrothers' iPhone adventure Sword & Sworcery EP

It gave me goosebumps. That's about the highest compliment I can pay the upcoming iPhone adventure game Sword & Sworcery EP, and just about all you need to know for now. They were significant, too, for not just being the goosebumps of that media moment where all elements suddenly align -- where pixel and music work in perfect concert -- but for the kind you get when a game anticipates your demands and provides you with an answer to a question you hadn't even asked yet. There's a sense in which the EP is being created just for me: not quite that literally, but it is the collective brainchild of designer Craig 'Superbrothers' Adams (who you'll remember from his just-featured Less Talk, More Rock speech), indie studio Capy (also featured here for their gorgeous Critter Crunch revamp and their Clash of Heroes handheld masterstroke), and musician Jim Guthrie, a long-time favorite both for his golden, harmonic pop solo work and his own collaborative output as Human Highway. I managed to get my hands on Sworcery as soon as humanly possible -- before the Game Developers Conference started proper, and away from the chaotic bustle of this year's crowded Indie Games Fest pavilion. It was a wise and fortuitous choice -- playing alone on a late night Mission district rooftop -- because Sworcery's magic demands quiet and careful attention to properly cast its spell. True to his own words in that Boing Boing feature, the game is about unspoken dialogue between itself and the player: responding to your own curiosity and whispering questions rather than shouting demands. Case in point: just watch that video at top, where a single non-reflected mark in its waters practically evokes more mystery and wonder than most scripted turns-of-events in the majority of the triple-A fantasies the games industry has given us in the past few years.
And while the main adventure mode showcased at top is all serenity now, Superbrothers promises higher intensity drama to follow, showcased via a combat mode against the game's Grizzled Boor -- an antagonist that pays slight homage to Another World's dark beast in subtly leading you deeper into its world while never necessarily proving himself not exactly a threat. Should you decide to take on the Boor, you're presented with this minigame above where here, too, Superbrothers takes their "less talk" mantra to heart, telegraphing your opponent's intentions with visual cues, in loving and open tribute to NES classic Punch-Out!! (see especially that 'stunned' star that appears overhead). These two modes were as many secrets as Superbrothers was willing to publicly disclose in the GDC demo, but with months yet left in its development, there's hints of much deeper layers of involvement ahead -- onion peeled layers that Adams has been drip-feeding though ultra-vague hints through his "teletex bulletin" email updates over the past several months. yuletide620.jpg But this is one I can give away here: if you scroll back through the artwork Adams has released to date, one design element should stand out against the rest -- that razor sharp crescent moon hanging behind his otherwise signature field of muted pixels. Add that to the release schedule of those teletex updates (February 14th and 28th, March 15th and 29th...) and it should start to snap into focus: your adventure through its world will modify itself based on the phases of moon in the real world. Exactly what shape this will take is another secret Superbrothers won't fully divulge, but there are hints that certain rare mushrooms which pepper the game's landscape will only come out under certain circumstances. All this adds up to an intricate ecology that rewards multiple playthroughs, rather than a linear and static adventure meant to be experienced once and set aside, and a landscape dotted with people worth meeting and vistas worth traversing. Prior to GDC it was perhaps my most anticipated game of the event (as I might've hinted at myself with my iPad-feature-topping-image): coming away, it might just be my most anticipated game of the year.


  1. It really has incredible atmosphere, though the combat system doesn’t seem so intuitive or, well, fun. Not that I’ve played it, just watched the previews, so maybe in real multitouch it’s more engrossing. Regardless of how the combat dynamics turn out, the rest of the game makes me think it’s a grown-up version of all those Sierra games from my past.

  2. @Brandonnn: Radness.

    @Elijah: Yeah, the combat at GDC was a little rough, not super intuitive, not too substantial, but still kind of fun to actually play once you got the hang of it. The good news: Now that we have a relatively firm foundation happening and the team is starting to find a groove I’m thinking the odds are good that the combat will end up being plenty solid when all’s said and done. Fingers crossed! :)

  3. That’s quite a build up. Let’s hope it’s a good as you say it is. Also, I wish Apple would relent on their stance on flash. I can’t view the developers videos about their iPhone game as I’m using an iPhone go read about it.

  4. I really, really wish I could play that.

    But even if I had that kind of money, I probably wouldn’t buy an iPhone just to play a game. :-(

  5. This game does not support Flash, so pass.

    Also, meh.

    Also, that bear was not real. I’ve used Photoshop, so I know.


  6. About 2:30 did you notice the question mark reflected in the water at the bottom left of the screen that isn’t represented by the land-geometry?

  7. This looks really fantastic, it reminds me, atmosphere and vibe wise, of ‘Wizards and Warriors’ for the 8 NES. I’ll definitely scoop this up when it comes out, because it seems so odd, which I like.

    @Hmpf I’m a Bberry user because of my job, so I don’t have an iPhone. About a year ago, my iPod died, so I replaced with a touch, strictly to use as a music player (truth be told I didn’t even realize it could run all the iPhone apps when I bought it). Since then though, I’ve really come to enjoy it as a game platform, and it’s practically replaced my DS as my gaming device when I travel. I’m not sure if it’s worth the cash, but it’s something to consider. A few of the games are outstanding: Plants v. Zombies and GTA: Chinatown wars especially.

  8. I like how “I wish this were in Flash” here is really code for “I wish this game were free.”

  9. I was being sarcastic about the Flash thing. I actually can’t wait to pay just about any price for this game. I’m an enthusiastic iPhone gamer and this game looks fantastic.

  10. Combat reminds me a lot of the cult classic “The Immortal” (TI). Actually, Sword and Sorcery (S&S) seems similar to that game in other respects as well. However, S&S looks much more laid back and forgiving. Hopefully that is the case, as TI was a beast to make it to the end!

    Also, I hardly know what “pedobear” is, but that is also the first thing I thought of when I saw the enemy. In fact, I was wondering if the whole BB post was an April Fools joke when I first saw the bear. I’d suggest retooling him to look different.

    However, I am now looking forward to this game. Looks like fun!

    ps. Anyone that likes indie adventure games should definitely check out Machinarium

  11. This game looks great. I noticed the question mark in the water too, it seemed like whomever was playing avoided all the obvious things to poke. Also, what is the music at the end, I liked whatever song was playing?

  12. @emilydickinsonridesabmx: I’m unemployed, so, definitely not buying a phone to play games on it. I have a phone; I have a computer; that has to suffice.

    I really would love it if there were fewer platform-specific games… I think that even if I had a lot more money, I wouldn’t want to buy half a dozen or so different devices to be able to play the games I’d love to play. It just goes against my environmentalist, “keep your resource use as low as possible” worldview. But it’s frustrating – there’s one or two games on every platform that I’m literally aching to play…

  13. @superbrothers

    All I gotta say is yes. A most definitive yes. In that first video, visiting that house and sitting by a fire. FUCK yes!!

    Why aren’t RPG’s about inhabiting a space like this. For me little touches like that are better then all the giant monsters and spaceships and guns. Going back to OOTW. True blue dude…

  14. I’m in love with the artwork, but as someone else mentioned, I don’t have an iPhone, nor do I plan on buying one. This would be great as a point and click adventure on say, Steam though. I’d probably snatch it up immediately if I could get it there.

  15. reminds me a lot of knytt stories from nifflas games.
    great ambient music and focus on environmental effects.


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