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Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (PC) review

£2.99 (ios) / £4.99 (PC)

Manufacturer: Superbrothers

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

The acclaimed, dreamlike iOS adventure returns to the platform that first inspired it.

While Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP made a rapturously-received name for itself with first an iPad and then an iPhone version, in arriving on PC it's finally tipping the hat to the games that inspired it. This 90s adventure game heritage means you could broadly call it a point and click adventure, but even aside from the fact that it began life as a touch and swipe adventure it's experimental and unpredictable to the point that easy definition isn't easy. This perhaps makes it sound inaccessible, but that too isn't the case - it draws you in and shows you what do naturally and coolly.

The great lure of S&S is that it's half-game, half collaborative experiment between programmers, artists, writers and musicians. Its moodily-painted, often abstract fantasy pixel-land is beautiful to behold even when blown up to monitor-size, while Canadian instrumentalist Jim Guthrie turns out a truly remarkable soundtrack that's equal parts mesmeric and chilling.

The game is based around simple, interaction-based puzzles and a certain amount of exploration, but it's also a sensory experience designed to further what electronic entertainment can be and do.

Which all sounds horribly pretentious, of course. Mercifully, it's dripping with charisma, both in terms of being charming and being sinister when it wants to be. Yes, occasionally it can be far too arch and even pompous, but really it wants you to soak up its strange, dreamlike world rather than tell you how clever it thinks it is. If anything, it doesn't quite have the confidence to thump its chest about what it's made, undermining its own splendour and gravitas with dialogue that too often consists of stonerish "we were like woah" mumbling.

It's testament to just how well-realised the neo-retro look and atmosphere are that this misfire doesn't upset the other-worldly applecart. The puzzles escalate from simply clicking on what's evidently meant to be clicked upon to deciphering a twisted internal logic whereby the very landscape can be altered and you need to be mindful of the phases of the moon.

Meanwhile, a creeping menace in the knowingly paper-thin story, as a lurking doom inadvertently awoken by your near-mute warrior character, slowly darkens the land, grants this lo-fi, 2D a sense of purpose and drama that's sorely missing from most mega-budget, cutting edge 3D efforts.

 Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

All that said, S&S isn't perhaps at its best on PC. On occasion, that the interface was evidently made for touch rather than mouse is all too clear, while the early-game tips reference actions you can't do without a capacitive screen and it's very short on the graphical and sonic options PC gamers are accustomed to. While its heritage are the old Lucasarts and Sierra games, and even the less cartoonish French likes of Another World and Future Wars, it is still a game designed specifically for portable touchscreen devices and that shows.

Of three versions available, the iPad is far and away the superior - it has enough screen real estate to really show off the strange, evocative, gargantuan architecture of the game, and it has the naturalistic gestures. Don't let that put you off the PC version, which still retains the game's wry, subtle spirit, but if you have a choice do go iPad.

Oh, and please resist the temptation to use the in-game Tweet facility. It was annoying enough a year ago on the mobile versions - no-one wants to see their feed suddenly flooded with mumblecore quotes all over again.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP Expert Verdict »

Sword & Sorcery EP is available for PC, iPhone and iPad. PC system requirements: OS:Microsoft® Windows® XP / Vista / 7 Processor:AMD Athlon 64 2800+ @ 1.8 Ghz and Intel Pentium IV @ 2.8 Ghz Memory:1 GB RAM Graphics:Graphics Card with 128 MB of RAM DirectX®:9.0 Hard Drive:500 MB HD space Sound:DirectX 9.0 compliant sound card ATI cards older than the HD series are not officially supported but may be compatible in many cases (e.g X300, X800, X1300, etc.).
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

Not quite the equal of its iPad version predecessor, but Sword & Sworcery is perhaps the most essential adventure game of the last year and thus an entirely welcome visitor to PC.

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