Tag Archives: Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

The highs and lows of Telltale’s The Walking Dead

telltale the walking dead thoughts so far

At this point, having completed four out of five episodes for season one of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, I know exactly what I like about it and exactly what is not working. It’s a shame there’s some good and bad here, as the good has the potential to outshine the bad, but then the bad is just so disappointing that it could bury the good. Yeah, that was totally clear writing.

I like adventure games, especially the point and click ilk. Please note that I didn’t say love, as I’ve really only fully experienced a few, such as Wadjet Eye’s The Blackwell Legacy series, Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EP, The Sea Will Claim Everything, and Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, but I had a pretty good time with those. In the past, I’ve tried playing games like Hector: Badge of Carnage, Machinarium, and Beneath a Steel Sky only to get stuck and give up in  obvious frustration. The things I often like in adventure games are the stories and the ability to click on lots of things for fun (or even bland) descriptions, and the parts I often find unwieldy are inventory management, obscure puzzles, and pixel hunting. The Walking Dead does a lot of great story work, but is hampered by none of the previous things mentioned, rather modern day quirks that really take it down a notch. Let’s start with the bad, then the good.

To begin with, the Achievements. Yes, they are meaningless things, but their inclusion in The Walking Dead is so noticeable that they have to be accounted for. Some have funny titles, often silly or referencing pop culture or even snide, especially based on the group’s current situation. The Walking Dead is not a very funny game, though there are the occasional moments or quips, but the premise itself is rather bleak, and seeing how episode four ended, it’s only gonna get darker. So earning Achievements with names like “You Fight Like a Dairy Farmer” and “Too Much Salt Will Kill You” right when emotional moments are trying to sink in is a bit like losing a loved one and then getting slammed in the face with a custard pie. Again, in the end, the Achievements are completely meaningless, it’s just that they are quite invasive when one is immersed in a world overrun by zombies.

The next problem I have might only be related to the Xbox 360, but I don’t know. It could be on other platforms, and it has to do with loading screens. They come up at the worst time, with the worst transitions to them. It’s just a simple cut away to a boring screen that says NOW LOADING… on it. For instance, near the beginning of episode four, Lee is climbing a ladder in a house to see what’s up in the attic. You actually control Lee as he climbs the steps, one by one, music swelling, the promise of something major soon to be revealed. You get to the top step and…loading screen. This is just one example, but the pacing and tone is often knocked aside on most of the loading screens as they often happen during large moments. I dunno, just like with the Achievements, they really took me out of a great gaming adventure.

Lastly, and don’t worry, I’ll get to some good stuff shortly, when you fail an action scene, more often than not, Lee dies and you reset to the start of the action. For me, this was particularly jarring. These moments where you have to shoot a zombie in a particular spot within three seconds are disappointing in that you are just thrown into it with no guidance and will most likely lose the first time. After you fail that first time, then the game tells you what you’re supposed to do. Gee, thanks. In episode two, at the motel, you used the four-pronged cursor to highlight enemies and shoot with the A button, but this time around they switched to a more traditional RT shooting convention; either way, these moments are not the greatest and seem ham-fisted for gamers that want more out of their puzzle games. I could do without, personally.

So those are the things about The Walking Dead I’m not digging. Otherwise, wow. The story is riveting, and each character comes across fully realized from the word go, making every choice a struggle, whether it’s simply a line of dialogue or a heart-breaking decision. Or, in the case of Ben, an easy one. The timer on dialogue options is a wonderful motivator, and my Lee is the kind of guy that cares deeply about Clementine and tries to keep the group happy; at first, he worked hard for Kenny’s respect, but now that matters no more. I understand that a lot of the finer plot points can’t be changed, but the small interactions between characters and the relationships you construct are where this game shines. I do play with the notifications turned on, something I’ve seen others suggest turning off, as they can potentially negatively future decisions. So far, I’m okay with them.

I will most likely be finishing up episode five tonight or this weekend, and I don’t expect any new gameplay twists to really shake up the formula. Hopefully it’s all story to the end, but I’m sure I’ll have to stumble my way through an action scene or two before the credits roll. Regardless, I’ve been pretty impressed with the effect The Walking Dead has had on me, even with a few problems. I’ll definitely be playing season two as it comes out, episode by episode, whenever that is, ready to make some choices.

2012 Game Review Haiku, #39 – Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

2012 games I completed sworcery

Find the Megatome
Work with moons, enter dreams to
Vanquish antlered ghost

For all the games I complete in 2012, instead of wasting time writing a review made up of points and thoughts I’ve probably already expressed here in various posts at Grinding Down, I’m instead just going to write a haiku about it. So there.

The Bright Moon loomed, and the Scythian labored

If you follow me on Twitter, I must both apologize and then apologize for apologizing, as I went on a tweeting rampage last night due to there being a full moon in the sky, as well as a pixelated one in Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. In case you missed all the intense action, here’s a taste:

I love the absurdity of that dog-infused tweet jarringly placed among all the ones about saving sylvan sprites and working on obtaining the Bright Moon Trigon. But really, Capybara Games is to blame as they went ahead and made every scrap of text tweet-able, and dang if the writing wasn’t so bizarre and strangely amusing. One could most definitely tweet out the entire Sworcery experience–if they didn’t mind losing all their followers, that is. Right. Moving on…

I last played Sworcery a couple weeks back, completing sessions one and two in a single go, absolutely absorbed into the strange world, its fiction and sounds and meticulous aesthetics. I started exploring the lands a bit in session three, just to see what was to come, but was firmly planted in my Scythian’s tracks, as progress further depended on phases of the moon. More specifically, a Full Moon and a New Moon. And these phases had to correspond with real life. One could totally cheat by looking up when the next desired phase was and adjusting the clock on their computer or iPad, but I’m not into that. Plus, years of living a digital life via Animal Crossing: Wild World has taught me the patience required for waiting for a specific day to do something. And so I waited, about two weeks, to play.

Last night, between the fresh snow and the full moon, the outside was nearly as bright as the inside. In Sworcery, not much looked different, except for a noticeably bright and full moon hanging in the sky on just about every screen. I loved this, the mixing of real life and not, the fusing of sides A and B, the glimmering blur of there and here. Unfortunately, with a full moon comes full problems, as that antler-headed god-demon ghost-thing now appears more frequently to challenge you in a fight. I took it on twice and won, but later would just run to the next screen to avoid it.

But with the moon full, the Scythian could now find more trapped sprites in the environment, eventually getting enough to find the way to the Bright Moon Trigon hid, duking it out with shield and sword until it could fight no more. Pretty much the same way we got The Gold Trigon. Figuring out the correct music cues for each sprite is never hard and always enjoyable, and the reward of that song is all I really ever need in life. I will admit though that I got stuck on the ducks puzzle, as I had completely forgotten the ability to drag items around. That’s part of the problem in a game forcing you to take these long breaks based on moon phases–not everything remains.

So, it seems like there will be a New Moon around December 13, 2012. I guess that’ll be the next time I play more Sworcery. Sigh. I’m not terribly disappointed in having to wait, though it can feel a little limiting, especially considering that I want to play it a whole lot right now, but can’t, unless it’s just walking around, listening to the music, and getting nowhere with Girl. I can do that just fine on my own with the coupled soundtrack I got from the Humble Bundle package, but it’s not quite the same without a tree or bush to click on in rhythm.

The sights and sounds of Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

The longer I don’t play any of those PC games I’ve gotten over the past year or so from too many indie bundle collections to name, the bigger my collection grows untouched with each new tantalizing bundle that adds to it. In fact, I’ve started passing up great deals simply because my digital collection is truly bloated. If I was to be honest, I still have a hard time remembering I have a gaming laptop now, as I mostly use my Macbook still, especially since that’s where I do a lot of my writing and all of my comics. My bad. But I finally bit the bullet, pulled the plug, kicked the can–what have you.

Seeing as Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP is the new Braid/Cogs in terms of being coupled in nearly every new bundle that drops, I figured it was a good place to start. Plus, the look of the thing alone has had me intrigued since word-of-mouth about the little sound-based fantasy adventure came out, but since I’m the type of person who lacks both a smartphone and/or an iPad–and I can’t really even forecast when I’ll ever get such a device–I’ve had to wait  for it to get ported to the PC. Which was done back in May 2012. I got my copy of Sword & Sworcery from Humble Indie Bundle V, installed it to Steam, and quickly forgot about it because I have that tendency to do so. Maybe this is a forthcoming 2013 New Year Resolution in the works…

I guess the easiest way to describe Sword & Sworcery is that it’s an indie adventure game. Sound and atmosphere play extremely important roles, but there’s also some timing-based combat and puzzle elements to boot. You control The Scythian as he/she explores a mythic realm, uses a sword to do battle, and wields sworcery–song-based magic to get down to it–to solve musical mysteries. You’ll meet a small cast of humble locals as you move around the land, as well as some nefarious monsters, like a pursuing demon wolf-beast. There’s some other stuff that’s not really clear, like these tomes and mentions of antlered gods, but it all does a wonderful job of sustaining a fantastical yet believable other-world. Strange structures, that flipped Triforce symbol that appears now and then, an actual usage of a record to represent Side A and Side B of a place–moments of wonder, all of them. It makes each new location exciting to explore.

Let me take a moment to discuss the real meat of Sword & Sworcery: the music. The music, Grinding Down readers. It’s both calming and hypnotic, and at times absolutely unnerving. Just like the soundtrack from Fez. I’ve spent more time listening to the tunes than playing the game at this point. “The Ballad of the Space Babies” does something to my insides that I can’t, without a medical degree, accurately describe. But I’ll try. It fills me with air, it lifts me up. There’s a promise of friends whispered off the horizon, and cloud-walls that ripple with each breath to lead me there. I am floating, moving through space and heading home. Only I know the way. It feels like forever, but the speck of light is growing, crowning, now radiant, with eyes open. When I get there, they close; the ballad’s journey is over, and I’m safe.

Another part of the game that I’m enjoying, but those that follow me on Twitter are likely not is the fact that nearly everything can be tweeted directly from the game. Small bits of narration, descriptions, instructions, and even dialogue. I’m choosing my tweets carefully, but because there’s a lot of whimsy and downright silliness to the writing in Sword & Sorcery, it is often hard to resist tweeting out every encounter. For now, here’s some I’ve done:

More to come though.

So far, I’ve completed Session 1 and Session 2. Both sessions are around thirty to forty-five minutes long, depending how fast you move and how quick you figure out the song-based puzzles. The sheep one in Session 2  took me a little bit to figure out, but otherwise nothing too difficult. Moreover, the boss fight that completes Session 2 is more stressful than challenging, requiring constant attention and quick reflexes, which are probably easier to do on an iPad or phone that moving a mouse cursor left and right. I’ll get better, now that I know what to expect from these situations, but I got that Gold Trigon with only one star of health left. Whew.

I’ve taken some time off of work next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, and besides catching up on a lot of drawing for my 365 BAD COMICS project, I’m looking forward to playing some of these games of mine a wee bit more, with Sword & Sworcery‘s Session 3 high on the list. I’ll be back. Until then, keep clicking, listen hard, and float away.