Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Super Brothers: Sword & Sworcery

For my previous module, I was conducting some research on iOS gaming and came across 'Sword & Sworcery.' What interested me was its apparent focus on sound and narrative, which is an area I have explored during my first year. I decided to purchase the app on my ipod touch and have been playing the game now for a few days. I have not yet completed the game so this post is more of a reflection on my experience so far, and whether it has lived up to the hype in my opinion.

The narrative of the game is fairly light hearted and easy to follow, still, it offers great immersive gameplay. You play as a 'Scythian' who's travels lead to a cave containing a book called the 'Megatome.' When the book is taken the statue which was holding it comes to life and dark clouds spread across the land. There are a few memorable characters in the game. The awoken statue becomes a memorable villain, stalking you through your quest. There is 'girl,' who you meet at the start of your quest along with 'Loggerfella' who opens he gate to access the road to 'Mingi Taw' and assist you on your travels. This is the road which leads you to the Meagtome. There is also the dog 'Dogafella' who is a trusted companion. An omniscient character named 'The Archetype' narrates the story and gives the player hints. Humorously, the Megatome is able to read and store the thoughts of other characters. This feature also unlocks hints to help the story unfold.

After cloud spreads across the land. Girl speaks of 'Sylvan Sprite' sightings. She suggests that perhaps by sending them up in to the sky, the storm could be calmed. At this point I will begin discussing one of the key elements of the game, the sound. Throughout the game, there is a theme of music. The game consists of sessions where the player progresses through the story. The quest is symbolised as being a vinyl record, side A being the main world and side B being the dreamworld which plays a role in the main quest. To awaken the Sprites, the player is taught a song. Each time a sprite is located, the player must enter this song mode, where the sound becomes spacey and soothing. Whilst in this mode, the player must solve puzzles built into the environment to unlock the sprite and then send it up in to the sky. The majority of the puzzles rely on locating points within the area which trigger sounds. The sounds must then be triggered in the correct order, meaning many of the puzzles are combination based. As points are triggered, beautiful melodic choir sounds build up which is an element I found really captivating. Once the sequence is figured out and activated in smooth progression, each trigger creates a musical scale, which results in very soothing harmonies. The game contains many embracing stereo sounds. The music itself is very dynamic and offers as much to the gameplay as the visuals. I often find myself absorbed in the sound, really driving the quest and keeping me keen to venture on further. Here is the harmonious song which plays when summoning the Sylvan Sprites:

I will say a little bit about the gameplay but as the focus of the game seems to be on sound, the interface is very simple. The game is 3rd person side scroller. To navigate, the player simply double taps or holds down where they want the character to move. This seems to be the best approach for iOS games. Instead of tediously trying to move around with an over complicated interface, the player can physically interact with the virtual world and explore it effortlessly. Because of this, the player can simply admire the sound when moving from point A to point B. There is also combat in the game which adds a sense of excitement and diversity. To engage in combat, you must tilt your divice portrait ways to prompt the Scythian to draw their sword. There is a simple block and melee approach to the combat system. The player must generally hold up their shield with the click of an icon to block incoming attacks. Once the enemy tires, the player must then seize the opportunity and hit the sword icon. There are slightly more complex boss like sequences which involve deflecting the enemies trajectory weapons with the sword and also timing a tap of the shield to block special attacks. Some of these sequences correspond with the tempo of the music, emphasising this link with sound and visuals.

In conclusion, what I have enjoyed most so far about the game is the generally dynamic gaming experience. Through sound, there are points where you feel soothed and at ease, and then with a minor score introduced, you suddenly find you are tense with a sense of peril. There are very static moments where time is spend figuring out puzzles, and then there are contrasting moments of excitement when an enemy engages you in combat. There is a maintained link between visuals and sound, you almost feel like as the player you have a role in the music. This is an ideal approach for a platform which in my view requires a uniquely simply interface, and also specialises in music and sound.

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