Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP Hands-On Preview

Since we last played Sword and Sworcery, there have been a number of changes and improvements. Instead of being a 37-minute game, which was the original plan, the adventure has been lengthened and deepened by the developer, Capy Games. We played through the first of four “sessions” in Sword and Sworcery today, and wanted to give you a taste.

The first session starts with your character, the Scythian, teleporting into a wooded area. You’re prompted to tap on items in the environment to interact with them, like rustling bushes, and you can move by double-tapping (or “tip-tap”, in the game’s language).

Our Scythian moved through the woods until she encountered a woodcutter named Logfella, who the in-game text told us “seems like a cool guy”. These examples of modern-day vernacular keep the game from getting too heavy or full of itself, couching the atmospheric adventure in humor.

The woodcutter led us through a winding mountain path, unlocking a gate into the wilderness. Soon after passing the gate, we had a battle with a three-eyed wolf, who ran away before we could deliver a final swing of the sword. Combat is handled by tilting the device 90 degrees, which causes the Scythian to draw her sword.

We won’t spoil what comes next, but there were some awe-inspiring moments in this first “session” involving a rainbow, a cliff-face that was carved into the shape of an actual face, and an ancient book called the Megatome that you have to forcibly remove from a pair of skeletal hands.

This first session of four is the shortest, and we’re assured that the experience will only grow weirder as you progress. Instead of overwhelming the player, which we were concerned about from the insane trailer, Sword and Sworcery looks like it will gently ease you into this alternate world. Capy Games has made something really special here, combining incredible art and music into a gameworld that is strange and beautiful. Sword and Sworcery will finally be out on iPad at the end of the month, and a few weeks later on iPhone.

The makers of the weird, beautiful game Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery have just announced that the iPad version of the game has been approved by Apple and will be released on Thursday, March 24. The iPhone version will be available next month. To hold you over until then, check out our coverage of the game below!

One of the most surprising games we played at E3 this year was Capybara’s mysterious iPad adventure game, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP. There’s a lot to unpack in just the title. Superbrothers is the artist whose unique style permeates the game world and characters, and EP refers to a vinyl record that separates the game’s two halves into Side A and Side B.

You play as The Scythian, a female warrior, though it’s hard to tell she’s female with the pixilated graphics, which lay a fuzzy veil over the environment. Your purpose isn’t apparent from the beginning of the game, but the goal is to find out what you’re doing and why.

On Side A, you start at the top of a mountain, and as you head down you’ll find branching paths. One of these pathways has a grizzled boor (a type of giant goblin) that you can chase down and eventually fight to the death.

Many items in the environment will react to your touch, like a flock of ducks that will scatter when you tap on them, or bushes that will rustle. You’ll also encounter characters who speak in short phrases, like the shopkeepers in the original Zelda games. This economical dialogue is not only there for nostalgic purposes– you can also post their 140-character speeches to Twitter to spread the game’s lore to your online followers.

Exploration seems to be the main focus of the game, but there is some combat as well. By tilting the device to access your inventory, you can draw you sword. Then when you face an opponent, you’ll be matched one-on-one, Punch-Out style, with taps to stun and a powered-up slash that can inflict damage.

Tying everything together are two important aesthetic choices: the music and the art. The artwork by Superbrothers makes Sword and Sworcery look unlike any iPad game we’ve played. Instead of sharp, high-res art, the game features abstract environments that are both imprecise and incredibly detailed.

The music is composed by Toronto musician Jim Guthrie, and he’ll make a few cameo appearances in the game, plucking on a banjo or shredding on an electric guitar. We were encouraged to think of the overall experience as listening to a record, with different ‘songs’ representing different areas and quests.

There’s so much creativity packed into Sword and Sworcery that it is almost overwhelming. But here’s one more example: The real-world lunar cycle is built into the game, so the moon in the background of the game will represent the phase of the real moon outside. Certain events, like more wolves during a full moon, are triggered by the lunar calendar.

Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP is a remarkably ambitious game, and even though it’s designed to be a shorter experience of a few hours (not including hidden content), it looks to be a memorable one. It’ll be released ‘when it’s done’, which we are hoping is just a few months away.