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Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP preview: Swo engrossing


Deep immersion into games is pretty hard to achieve even in the best of circumstances. You'd never expect to experience it when playing on a portable device ... in a hotel lobby ... with the guys who made the game surrounding you. Yet it was so easy to become fully engrossed in Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP, the new action-adventure title from Clash of Heroes developer Capy, artist Craig "Superbrothers" Adams and musician Jim Guthrie.

The game manages to combine very disparate elements to create something special -- epic fantasy imagery with goofy humor, point-and-click gameplay with Punch-Out and, yes, immersion with an iPhone.

Sword & Sworcery's first quest tasks the nameless player character with retrieving the "Megatome," a book that is magical or powerful or something -- I don't really know. The point is that it's powerful and go get it.

Your loyal dog helps lead you through the forest, as does Logfella, a local woodsman voiced by A Life Well Wasted's Robert Ashley, who keeps it surprisingly calm in his capacity as epic-quest-helper. When he wants your attention, he deadpans a quick "Hey!" And, if you sit down with him to rest, the two of you will have a brief, awkward conversation. Any feeling of the game as an artsy, pretentious affair is immediately shattered.

The brief quest leads me to a giant statue and a stone tablet with a picture of a sword and a rainbow on it. I don't want to spoil this simplistic puzzle but -- okay, it's simplistic enough to spoil: You raise your sword into the rainbow-filled sky (the people in this world "hate rainbows," I am told). This is a sort of introduction to the "combat" mode. Normally, you walk around by tapping or dragging, point-and-click style, and then tap on objects to observe or interact with them, but you draw your sword simply by tilting the iPhone (or iPad) ninety degrees.

This is how you defend yourself from enemies, like the three-eyed wolf-thing that follows you around or, say, a possessed warrior statue. In combat mode, Sword & Sworcery superficially resembles Punch-Out, with your character on the bottom of the screen, and your enemy at the top. It's quite a bit simpler, though, with only a virtual "sword" button, "shield" button and dodge move. It's simple, but tense. I spent half the demo with a cool flickering effect on my avatar ... that meant I was almost dead.

After retrieving the Megatome, I began hightailing it back home. At this point, the music picked up with a menacing drumbeat, the sky began flashing and a thunderstorm started. And it was beautiful. A truly stirring moment in a jokey, touch-controlled adventure game.

Capy plans to release the iPad version of Sword & Sworcery first, during the somewhat vague release window around "the equinox" (late March), with the iPhone version to follow.

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