Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

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Let’s be honest, that title is substantial.

S:S&S EP (an abbreviation that is almost longer to say than the title itself) is an upcoming iPad/iPhone joint from the creative minds that brought you Critter Crunch and Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, and… these guys, the prolific pixel artists and multimedia talent at Superbrothers. Oh, and Toronto music producer Jim Guthrie is also in there, too.

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Sword & Sworcery is subtitled “the archetypal videogame adventure”, but after once glance, you get the sense that’s not true at all. Graphically, the game is reminiscent of the early 90s classic Out Of This World, and that is no accident. Creative Director Craig Adams at Superbrothers is a big Eric Chahi fan, an influence that extends into the wonderfully expressive backgrounds in the game. It’s also a game that is truly a new media experience. The EP in the title represents the tight integration of music into the core experience; composer Jim Guthrie reworked his own material to better support gameplay situations more organically, lending a tighter fit between the action on screen and the score. The dialogue and exposition are also another major experiment: no block of text is longer than 140 characters, which means the entirety of Swords & Sworcery is tweetable. Craig is a particular twitter fanatic (something I discovered shortly after following him), but the platform has been a unique way to promote the launch.

Oh, and Robert Ashley is a non-player character.

These are the kinds of experimental touches that are looking to defineĀ Sword & Sworcery as a piece of truly original software, touches that reflect Superbrothers’ unique take on multimedia art and the convergence of everyday technology with the appeal of gaming.

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Strange, then, to think that Sword & Sorcery got its initial start thanks to MTV. Before collaborating on various projects with Superbrothers, Jim Guthrie used to mess around on the 1999 PS1 game MTV Music Generator while on tour, creating loops from the basic tools the game provided. One day, Craig sent Jim some illustrations he had done, and in response, Jim sent Craig ten tracks that he had made in his downtime on the PS1 title. From there, it wasn’t long before the idea for a full game around custom music took hold. Fast forward to a chance meeting at an industry party between Craig and the guys at up-and-coming Toronto studio Capybara Games, and the two parties knew they had to work together (apparently grabbing each other by the shoulders and yelling that they were going to make a game). Fueled by that enthusiasm, the concept took flight.

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They had 30 days to create a demo eligible for the Independent Games Festival; they did it and won for Achievement in Art in the 2010 Mobile section. Since then, the small team has been hard at work crafting gameplay to go along with the killer audiovisual presentation. But even the development has been experimental; Craig is quick to point out that most mobile games go through only a few months of development before being released. With Sword and Sworcery EP, they’ve been at work for almost a year and a half, adding some adventuring elements here or some combat there.

“Where are the handcrafted works for this machine?” Craig asks as he hefts his iPad delicately in his hands. “It’s a beautiful device.”

It’s tough to argue with him there; Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP looks to be one of the most compelling releases of 2011 on any platform, no matter how manage you say it.

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