Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP isn’t very new by video game standards, but it just released on the Nintendo Switch at the end of last month — and just so happened to be the first time I’d ever played it. What’s been described as an interactive prog-rock album is a wonderful adventure heavily rooted in Jim Guthrie’s musical talents, the design works of Superbrothers, humor, and tragedy. While this may not be a new game for others, my maiden voyage was absolutely spectacular.
The game begins when a traveler — known as The Scythian — sets out on the “woeful burden,” a quest of locating the mystical Megatome. She receives the help of a local woodcutter named Logfella and his canine companion, aptly named Dogfella, and succeeds in her goal rather quickly. Using the Megatome allows The Scythian to enter Sworcery mode and interact with Sylvan spirits by way of solving a series of environmental puzzles.
Of course, everything turns to shit afterward and her quest continues to obtain three Trigons, which are most definitely not Triforces from The Legend of Zelda. Sword & Sworcery is definitely self-aware and full of genuinely funny treats out in the game world and within its narrative. I was eager to speak with everyone and comb the Megatome’s pages for extra tidbits of information.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP spans four separate “sessions,” of which the first and last run roughly 30 minutes in length and the middle two provide the lion’s share of the gameplay. The entire experience ran me around four hours, for what that’s worth to you. Interestingly enough, you can play through the game using a traditional JoyCon setup or Pro Controller (one stick moves The Scythian while the other acts as an on-screen cursor), a single JoyCon (giving a more traditional point-and-click feel), or in handheld mode via touch controls. This was originally a mobile title where The Scythian’s sword was drawn by rotating the device between horizontal and vertical view.
I finished my playthrough using a mix of my Pro Controller and a single JoyCon and definitely had some struggles with the former. The screen seems to move a bit for dramatic effect, which made keeping a cursor in place to interact with things somewhat troublesome. It’s not frustrating or anything; it mostly led to me having to press the interact button a few extra times. Using the JoyCon felt a bit more genuine since I’m all too familiar with the point-and-click genre.
The game blends together exploration, puzzle solving, and combat, though there isn’t much of the latter outside of a few boss fights. Exploration takes place across two different worlds — being the real one and a dream world that can be switched between back at camp — wherein both provide ample environmental puzzles to solve in order to collect spirits and progress the story. Very little information is given on how to solve said puzzles, but most tend to involve the player going into the aforementioned Sworcery mode and tinkering with objects in the background. None of them were mentally taxing. Honestly, I found them imaginative and interestingly thrown together. Some involved waiting for, or outright changing the moon cycle, to access certain events, while others had me strumming a series of waterfalls like a musical instrument. It’s unique.
Combat doesn’t play a major factor in Sword & Sworcery EP, though it does appear on occasion. Once it’s initiated it either plays out like a rhythm game, where projectiles are volleyed back and forth or dodges are performed, or The Scythian’s controller (that’s you!) must read the opponent’s attacks and reactor accordingly by using their shield to defend and sword to counterattack. It’s nothing too deep, but it did fit the musical theme very well (particularly during boss encounters).
Speaking of the music, it’s absolutely stellar. Musician Jim Guthrie delivers a flawless array of tunes that set environmental moods, elevated boss fights to new heights, and got the blood pumping between “sessions.” Since finishing Sword & Sworcery EP, I’ve found myself visiting his Bandcamp page fairly often to stream the music and can’t wait to purchase the official soundtrack after all of the holiday madness is over. If you want a sample, The Prettiest Weed is hands down my favorite track in the game, but Ode to a Room and Unknowable Geometry are both *incredible* pieces of music.
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP feels like playing a wonderful piece of art — the pixels are perfect, the puzzles are inventive, the weird characters are all super charming, and Jim Guthrie’s music brings it all home and wraps it in a nice little bow. It’s a game I wish I’d played back in 2011, but I’m glad I finally got a chance on the Nintendo Switch (which is currently the only available console release). Everything plays well in tandem with one another and never once did I feel a sense of boredom or want to question the game’s artistic direction. It just worked.
If you own a Nintendo Switch, have never played this before, and have an extra $10 USD to spare, I urge you to support this game. It’s not only a brilliant four-hour ride but a supreme example of “games as art.” Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is equally weird, wonderful, imaginative, and tragic, and I can’t recommend it enough.
I don’t use review scores here at Cheap Boss Attack, so hopefully you find the above text far more informative than an arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Have any questions about the game that weren’t answered in the review? Sound off down in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them without spoilers.
Full disclaimer: A digital copy of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP for the Nintendo Switch was provided for the purpose of this review.