This morning I met with the guys behind Sword & Sworcery EP: Craig D. Adams of Superbrothers, Nathan Vella of Capybara Games, and musician Jim Guthrie. In its current state, Sword & Sworcery EP, is less of a game and more of an "experience", but both Blake and I were completely blown away by the music, atmosphere, and profound feel of the whole thing.

Sword & Sworcery EP seems like a classic pixelized old school adventure game where players find themselves in a mysterious world to explore. The game has two distinct play modes currently, a landscape mode for exploring, and when you enter combat, turning the phone sideways changes the game to the battle mode, which plays a lot like the classic NES Punch Out. You can swing with your sword, dodge, and block.

The team has put together two videos of the first section of the game, which they've described as "like the tram ride in Half-Life." If you've never played Half-Life, the game started with a minimally interactive train ride of sorts that did a fantastic job of setting the mood for the entire game. After taking the Sword & Sworcery tram ride, all I can really say is wow.

Horizontal "sworcery" mode:

Vertical "sword" mode:

Sword & Sworcery recently won an achievement in art at IGF Mobile 2010, and is scheduled for a Q2 2010 release. The team is planning on slowly releasing more details (and hopefully gameplay videos) over the next few months. Out of all the games we've seen so far at GDC, this is the one we're by far the most excited for.

At this point in the life cycle of the App Store, it's starting to seem like games are often very similar to existing games, with one or two tweaks or a vaguely different feature set. Sword & Sworcery feels unlike anything I've played on the iPhone, and I can't wait to dive deeper in to it.

  • Steven

    Wow, my jaw dropped somewhere on the ground...this looks fantastic!

  • blackHorse

    Can't say I like anything in the game. Sorry.

  • TheFamousEccles

    Looks great.

  • Jesper

    Wow! that is one but ugly game!!!

    • TheFamousEccles

      You do know that's what a pixel style game is supposed to look like, right? I think they look pretty amazing.

      • Mick

        The game looks great, though I personally find pixel art is overdone in indie games. Make friends with graphic designers already!

  • Synergistic Ideologue

    I'm all up for the exploration portion (cool but a little repetitive) but have absolutely zero interest in the fighting part.

    I'd give the game a go but it reminds me of Out Of This World + Survival Kids + Shadow of the Colossus and then PEDOBEAR!

  • http://the-nomad-junkyard.blogspot.com/ Barry the Nomad

    looks fantastic!

    to the negative comments: look PAST the graphics. Yeesh.

  • monster

    I was really skeptical reading the lead-up to the videos, but any doubts I had were smashed by the end of the 2nd minute.
    It certainly looks amazing, and the atmosphere created is reminiscent of something like "Another World" or "Knytt Stories".

    Here's hoping the anticipation isn't borne simply out of an overactive imagination filling in the blanks, because lets face it, the trailers didn't tell us all that much (yet)

  • maev

    This is something very special and unique. I simply can't wait.

  • Matt Allen

    lol, is this article sacastic?

    • TheFamousEccles

      lol, are you ignurant?

      • wildcardd

        ^Irony?

      • Matt Allen

        Lol, Perfect

  • goimot

    finally getting first page, well deserved!! this looks awesome!

  • A Gay

    The combat is very Pouch Out! like. I'm not sure I like the movement, though. My big disgusting sausage fingers will cover quite a bit of the screen when moving around like that, and it looks to be very reliant on the scenery.

  • http://www.shur-design.com Mike

    TheFamousEccles,
    The fact that the art was a conscious decision doesn't keep it from being really ugly.

    The game may play fantastically - but I'm having a hard time getting over the (lack of) visuals.

    I guess I'm missing something...

    • http://nodpad.com/ MidianGTX

      Yeah, appreciation and the knowledge that your opinion isn't gospel. I think the game looks great.

      • http://www.shur-design.com Mike

        ummm.....
        I never said that my opinion was gospel. I don't like the art direction. You don't have to agree with me. I'd appreciate a slightly less derogatory tone, though...

        I lack appreciation? Appreciation of what? Of the visuals of this game? That's true. I don't deny that.

        Pixel art can force good designers to work smarter and more efficiently. Everything pixel needs a purpose. But it isn't necessary.

        Yeah, appreciation and the knowledge that your opinion isn't gospel. I think the game looks great.

      • http://www.shur-design.com Mike

        umm....
        I wasn't claiming that my opinion was gospel. I even asked for someone who finds this art appealing to explain it to me so that I could understand. Instead, I was mocked for not sharing your opinion.

  • John

    Hurts my eye just to look at it.

    Next.

  • Cilo

    This whole "artistic experience" aspect to the game reminds me of Ico from ps2 and I loved that game.

  • Crambazzle

    This looks interesting, but I find it hard to believe it wouldn't get boring very quickly. The doesn't appear to have much variety, and these types of games tend to be very low on actual gameplay.

    Also, I doubt it will sell well. I'm looking for a game, not an 'experience', and though Zen Bound had some success with this marketing strategy, that game heavily relied on good graphics to make impulse buys. There was another game similar to this called Passage, which was also labeled as an 'experience', which most people found very dull. Clearly whether or not it does well depends on how much you pander to the pretentious people who want an 'experience.'

    • http://www.silentrocco.com SIlent Rocco

      It's more the kids who want another FPS ;)
      It's like a good artistic movie for grown-ups who have already seen a lot,
      or just the next brainless Transporter movie for the kids.
      I'm open for a great new experience conquering new paths of the possibilities of computer gaming! Devs like these are my heroes. Take Eliss, Canabalt etc.... more than just simple gaming, if you ask me. It's extremely entertaining art. I love it.

      • Crambazzle

        Don't get me wrong, I'm all for originality in a game. The problem with this game is that it really doesn't seem very original. The whole 'pixel arthouse' thing has been done before in games, even done before on the iphone, so I think that the game should offer a more than satisfactory gameplay experience to back it up. From the videos, it doesn't look like this game has that.

        The game that this developer should attempt to emulate is Braid, which is a perfect example of a wonderfully original concept tied in with beautiful graphics, atmospheric sound and solid gameplay to back it up. This game has atmospheric sound, but there really is no need to make it in pixel art, especially when it has been done so many times before. To me it seems pixel art only really appeals to the really hardcore gamers who have seen and followed the evolution of games, and want to appreciate beauty in the supposed simplicity of NES style graphics. This is another reason I don't expect the game to sell well. I've yet to see whether there is enough variety in gameplay to make you want to finish this game, but it doesn't look like it at the moment.

        Zen Bound ticked two of those three boxes for me, and that's why it did well. This game looks like it only really ticks one though, which is why I expect it to fade away soon after release.

      • monster

        That Braid comparison was a really bizarre choice IMO, this doesn't strike me as anything like Braid (except maybe that it'll have some puzzles)

        And saying that the 'pixel arthouse' thing has been done, so therefore it's unoriginal... transplant that argument onto photo-realistic, or cartoon graphics and it makes no sense. So why should it for 'pixel arthouse' graphics?

        And judging the gameplay, aside from the combat, on this video would be like judging Half-Life's gameplay solely on it's tram-ride intro, if we take the dev's comparison as accurate. You can't write it off when we haven't even seen the vast majority of it yet

      • Crambazzle

        I was comparing it to Braid because it is an indie game with puzzle elements which is trying to be appreciated as art as well as a game, and trying to bring something new to a platform crammed with generic titles. I was saying that these games are only ever successful if you mix the three elements of atmospheric music, relatively original or unusual graphics, and solid gameplay to back it up.

        The reason pixel art games are different is that they are rarely - if ever - successful. This is because a) there isn't as much detail, so it is harder to impress things on the gamer; and b) many consumers on the app store are from a younger generation and when they see a game with these graphics think "this must be old, which means it is must be bad."

        I never wrote this game off. The first thing I said was "this looks interesting", so obviously I will look out for more details on the future. I have never played Half-Life so I can't really judge on the tram ride comparison, but I think it unlikely that after this first section the game bursts into an all-action FPS, or something massively spectacular like that. Obviously by comparing it to Half-Life the developer was hoping to gather some feverish anticipation in the community, and it has clearly worked, but I can't help but think there will be a fair few disappointed people when this comes out.

      • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

        Crambazzle-- So the team ran a fail because they did not emulate Braid??

      • Crambazzle

        I was using Braid as an example of a game trying to achieve similar recognition successfully. I never called this game 'a fail' and clearly you know more about this than I do, seeing as you have actually played it. As I stated originally I am personally very interested in this game, and I hope it will be as good as is hinted in the article.

        All I was doing was outlining the reasons I think this game will not be particularly successful. I wasn't casting random aspersions on how good or otherwise this game is, but I was forcibly reminded of a review a while ago of a game called Passage, which was also described as an experience. This was quite poorly received, and though I am aware this is very different as a game, I can't help but think it is going to attract the same sorts of buyers.

        It's just my opinion anyway, it's not necessarily going to sell badly. And I'm sure all the glowing reports toucharcade is giving it will help publicise and build some hype and it before its release. I'm just warning people that there's a possibility that it won't be the iphone's answer to Half-Life.

  • http://www.stormchild.net Stormchild

    Is 'Sworcery' misspelled for any particular reason? Or is it just a repeated typo in the article?

    • http://www.stormchild.net Stormchild

      Ah, I see it's actually spelled that way in-game, at least in the videos. Still seems like a strange thing to do though; anyone who searches for the game and spells "sorcery" correctly, won't find it.

  • http://www.silentrocco.com SIlent Rocco

    Wow, one of the most beautiful pixel art, I've ever seen.
    Plus a unique gaming concept and a lot of love.
    Smells like a masterpiece! I think the devs handle it with care.
    Can't wait!

  • tcrowns

    You can really see the age difference in the commenters here. For a lot of us from back in the day this is brings back the days of Ultima I, wizardry and Karateka on the Apple ][+ ][e. I think there is a lot of scope for games like that on todays phones with a unique tweak on the graphics

  • festival

    Jesus...the iphone really lacks a QM team....absolut anything is featured and praised as "the beat ever game..." is this site really an indie site or what?!

  • osiris37

    Wow! this looks amazing.
    Can't wait, yet another 'must buy' for me!

  • Mr. Gates

    Looks like some very interesting game play. My guess is that this is only a taste

  • jason

    dude this vimeo videos are barely working, I had to refresh the page to get the first one to load, then I tried to refresh for the second video, and it didn't even show up, same thign for like 3 refreshes, I click on the article link, it still won't load. I refresh the page, and it wont load and the first one doesnt even show up.....

  • iOctober

    Is it just me or is that monsters "anatomy" a bit too realisticaly placed x;

  • ahamling27

    Wow! Looks great and I can't wait for hours of exploring!

    For those of you who say it looks "borring" or "ugly", your only seeing the first 5 minutes of the game. I'm sure your not in a forest the WHOLE game. The graphics are great, and if you watched long enough to see the deer leap away into the background, that is A+ animation.

    Can't wait to play this game!

  • jason

    I really liked the first video.. too bad I cant even get the second one working... this is pissing me off =(

  • keo

    I love the abstracted pixel art with the minimalist color palette! Pay attention young'ns, not everything needs to be high-poly 3D with normal-mapping and specularity. There's a wealth of wonderfulness in the way these simple graphics animate.

    The audio is also wonderful, both music and effects.

    I'm not sold on the combat; it might make more sense in person but I had a hard time sorting out player input and in-game results.

    Time will tell if there's enough meat & potatoes in the full game, but I am definitely intrigued.

  • Greg

    Hey TouchArcade! We STILL can't use Flash on our iPhones. Put the videos in something we can watch on our iDevices please.

    • http://www.silentrocco.com SIlent Rocco

      These are not TA videos. These are the only videos available right now. And they are running on the best video platform in the internet. It's just pity for us iPhone users. Apple should consider working with VIMEO... since it's the Mac of video websites :)

      • Janek

        Well, if they're on vimeo then just a link underneath to the vimeo page would have done as vimeo does support the iPhone...

  • Mike

    I can look past the graphics and still wonder why people are claiming this is a breakthrough in gameplay, or that it brings something new to gaming etc.

    I agree that some young posters won't appreciate this kind of art, however, I think the older retro-lovers are a bit too overwhelmed. I was at GDC today and I am bewildered that you (Eli) think "this is the one we're by far the most excited for". To each his own, of course. Personally, I was bored watching the video.

    But anyways, if you look at the numbers, retro gaming doesn't sell very big on the iPhone. It's just too small a demographic. I wish the devs the very best and hope they can break this trend.

    • monster

      No one is saying it's a break-thru in gameplay or that they're bringing something entirely new to the realm of gaming, just to this platform. Indie adventure games that might be similar to this (as we have seen minimal gameplay thus far) have been about for a wee bit, I'm surprised it's taken this long for one to appear on the idevice platform really, as we've already seen plenty of other types of flash games popping up.

      More than anything, it's a breath of fresh air in an App Store crowded with dollar bargains, arcade style games, and thousands of clones of clones of clones.
      We haven't seen this kind of game hit the store yet. I think that's the main point, the icing on the cake being that, if you're into these things, it also looks like a top notch effort

    • arn

      if you were at GDC, you should have stopped by the booth to play it.

      arn

  • http://www.saucelifter.com Madgarden

    This looks great. I love pixels. I love exploration. I love barbarians. I love combat. Insta-buy here. :)

  • Wildthing

    Those people who feel the graphics are outdated or ugly really should reexamine them again. They reflect an era in computer gaming, like a black and white movie if you will.
    As those of you who have seen 'the third man' or countless other black and white movies will know - it is a beautiful medium, and many filmmakers choose it as a contemporary medium. So is the case for pixelated graphics.
    It's not a question of looking past the graphics, look at them. The developers have chosen this medium for a reason and I congratulate them on it.
    Taking a sidestep into this medium actually helps create the suspension of disbelief for me. I really hope it gets a full release.

  • Yog Shoggoth

    Sure are a lot more hicks reading this site than there used to be.

  • Yog Shoggoth

    Bloody lovely concept btw.

  • RJ2

    I can't agree with you more, Mike. I'm completely stumped why this would be "the one we're by far the most excited for"... especially after making the comparison to "the tram ride in Half-Life."

    Looking past the "art style" shown in the video, there's absolutely nothing that I could compare to opening of Half Life, which, as Eli pointed out, DID set the stage for the rest of the game. There's absolutely no sense of what the story here is about or what you'll be encountering. Other than Pedobear. Ha!

    • monster

      I think the tram-ride comparison was more to point out that this was just the tip of the iceberg, the tutorial stage, we haven't even seen half the game play yet.

      And I have no idea how you can assert that this isn't setting the stage for the rest of the game, when no one has any idea what the rest of the game is going to be like except for the devs, who made the comparison, so should probably know what they're talking about.

      Setting the stage in this case means establishing the atmosphere, the mystery (notice the question mark in the water at around 1:50? what's that about?), it's going to have some puzzles (okay the walking on water thing didn't look too hard in the video, but again, it's still only the tram-ride), exploring, and delicious delicious pixel art.
      And that's only the start

  • Nick

    I swear I heard some legend of Zelda sounds in the fighting part. Like the lock on sound was in there. lol

    • http://www.loup-vaillant.fr Loup Vaillant

      Definitely: he also ripped of bushes brushes, and the fire. These sounds are from Ocarina Of Time (or Majora's mask, but that's the same in this respect).

    • choster

      definitely the lock-on sound from the legend of zelda series, i tought i was the only one to note this. you're a good zelda fan hahaha

  • fearless

    The blue legos are annoying.

  • MrMuesli

    I'm curious what the goal is here?? Is there one?

  • Greg

    Amazing looking game! Obvious that a lot of talent and care is going into this art. No reason to "look past the art style" as previous commenters suggested. I'll buy this one for the art style alone!

  • Chris

    that bear thing totally reminds me of the Ski Free monster

    http://enigma01.com/images/skifree-monster.gif

    • Johnny82

      Man thats old!!!! I remember playing that like 15 years ago lol

  • jason

    Well I got the videos to work, looks amazing this is a definite must buy...

    Im really hoping this will be a BIG game because a game like this should be huge

  • Adams Immersive

    Retro styles get old for me, but this doesn’t seem retro—the blockiness is artistic to me, not old-fashioned. Looks fantastic!

  • Jordan10la

    Lovin' the art style. I love classic pixely graphics.

  • Genesisco Kid

    For various reasons, the reference for first impression of graphics & environment was Faxanadu (NES). First impression of music brought to mind various soundtracks from 70/80's movies... like "the Thing", "Blade Runner", "Starman", "Tron", "Dragon Slayer", "Legend", and "Krull" (among others).

    All of these, I'll mention, are definitely good things (in my world). Whether game play or story sucks/rocks... the developers have resonated a pleasing chord (in my soul chamber) with their demos.

    It's cool how modern technology works with classic ingredients to produce tasty outcomes in these days. Keep up the good work (devs). All you accomplish with "Sword & Sworcery EP" will build knowledge for future titles and projects.

    Peace.

  • araczynski

    to each their own i guess. seems like indie for the sake of indie. can't get past the graphics, i realize they're intentionally like that, i guess i'm just a graphics whore, had enough of the atari/nes stuff back in the day when i had the atari/nes. time to move on.

  • http://www.americanelf.com James

    It looks gorgeous to me. This game has been on my radar for a while now. Still very much looking forward to it.

    • http://www.squarezerostudio.com squarezero

      Same here. By the way, been a long-time fan of your work, James. Glad to see you around these parts.

  • B34$T

    Wow. So many negative comments. This looks absolutely fantastic.

    I don't understand why anyone thinks the graphics are meh. They look very well done. I guess most people don't have an appreciation for this sort of stuff. I mean I never played old school computer games(heck the only games I've played on computer are some popcap games, cave story and knytt)

    Hopefully the exploration aspect tickles the Metroid-lover in me and the fighting works wonderfully. Just guarantee that and it is a must buy.

  • http://none Sam

    Wow alot of people really like terrible pixel graphics games because it reminds them of Ultima 1 type games playing on Apple ]['s. Each to their own I guess.

  • lazypeon

    Another game doomed to overlooked because people don't appreciate the graphics. I'll definitely be picking it up though.

  • sdmg

    the graphics are outstanding! very good sound... not sure if i like the gameplay ... but the look is fantastic! congrats!

  • http://www.spizak.com Spizak

    reminds me of an Another World game in the sense of advature style.

    love it, great pixel art too.

  • http://www.twitter.com/skurk32 Nikk

    I love this.

    However- one complaint.

    And it's silly.

    I see this as a fantasy sort of thing- although not the Diablo sort of fantasy. More of a peaceful one (in the best way ever)

    It seemed calm and happy up until the wolf(?) thing was about to die and it kinda begged to stay alive.

    Kind of a bummer :/

    • Fishyloonger

      Have to agree here. The game seemed positive and mysterious until that part, where it just seemed gruesome to me. It really seemed to break the mood, and although I also must admit it sounds silly, that makes me think it's probably not my type of game.

    • http://www.blakespot.com Blake Patterson

      Ahh, but, when the creature is on its knees, begging for mercy, you do not have to kill it.... In playing the game, I felt a strong sense that it was wrong to kill the creature. The strength of that sense, and the degree of guilt I felt for killing it, in the name of seeing the game fully demonstrated, was surprising and quite telling -- given that I had played it only three minutes.

      I was thinking about how I killed the creature -- feeling bad about it -- for the rest of the afternoon and kept bringing it up to Arn and Eli. That's kind of amazing, to me.

      Maybe you don't want to kill the creature, either. That's ok here...

  • FurryKing

    I figured everyone would be going gaga over this.

    If the game had just a pixel look through out and that was it, then yes it would be ugly.

    It's the animation (and other special effects like the reflective water and sound design) that is making S&S soar. I knew right off the bat that I was in for a treat when the hero put his sword in his sheath. After that I could tell that this game would be a good experience.

    If the devs are reading this...

    1) Yes. I love the animation. This game reminds me also of the neo-retro classic Cave Story which used an 8-Bit aesthetic but beefed up the colors and animations to breathe more life into it. So props to your animator(s) and effects guy(s).

    2) I like that this seems to be built ground up with only a touch screen in mind. No joystick is a plus or buttons are a plus. It lets players take in the whole thing without clutter.

    3) I like that you can touch things in the environment to interact with them but in the game world it doesn't make sense how he's interacting with something that's not next to him. Have you considered having him pick up a rock to throw it at something? You have so many other animations tied to what the finger does (like when you observe he raises his hand above his eyes to observe with you) it just feels strange to watch the water just splash because I touched. It should splash because he threw a rock in it.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more. I feel like this will cost between $3 and $5 and I'm looking at 3-7 hours of gameplay. Since you guys have quite obviously drawn inspiration from Shadow of the Colossus the more fulfilling experience the better, even if it's a shorter one then like an RPG. Making our actions have impact on the game even on a minuscule level is what matters to me more than playing a game for a month. The App Store is full of games and since it's a portable device that means bursts of play can and will only last 15 mins. If you can make 15 mins of play enjoyable no matter what, then you win.

    Hope to see more soon!

  • Aaron

    they should have put some pants on that beast to avoid an M rating

  • Justin

    WOW. That looks even better than I had hoped it would!! I cannot believe the atmosphere that can be created in such a short time and with such "antiquated" graphics!! I LOVE the style and the music and everything. Well, the fighting looks bizarre, but that can be resolved before release I am sure.

  • x999x

    Great retro concept, but I hope the meat and bones of this game can live up to the hype.

  • Martin Firm

    Yes. Super Brothers. Awesome.

    http://superbrothers.ca/

    I would buy it for the artwork alone.

  • Martin Firm

    This game, for me, has officially become the Most Anticipated of 2010. Will buy at launch without hesitation.

  • spiffyone

    Wow.

    So Eli and I are in agreement over the genius that was the opening tram segment of Half-Life? I mean...seriously...anytime I bring that part up as an example of good storytelling in an interactive medium like video games, I'm shouted down by naysayers who point to crap like the monotonous unnecessarily non-interactive CGI cutscenes in games like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid as good storytelling for the medium. But Eli, Eli who disagrees with me on just about everything...he GETS it.

    And, yes, Eli...I agree with you on this one. It does have a certain magic to it.

  • Syzygy

    Sorry, this looks lame. Why bother rehashing the old tired crap from the 90's? Let's make use of modern technology & interfaces by NOT rehashing old crap.

  • jason

    what's the motivation for chasing down that man-bear and beating him up? hopefully there's a story to back this stuff up.

  • Daniel

    Not excited.

  • http://www.hopeforafghanchildren.org Doffie

    I think I'm going to like it. Looks immersive in a way I like, and magical charm surely has a place on the iPhone. My iPhone, at least.

  • http://bedlamreview.wordpress.com David

    Oh, this is beautiful work. Outstanding.

  • Marius

    Those graphics are BEAUTIFUL.

    You know what's wrong you people?

    You lack IMAGINATION!
    This is what happens when we get spoiled on graphics to the point where your mind has nothing left to do. This game harkens back to a time where the emphasis was truly placed on story, gameplay, and the experience. Finally, a game that will take you somewhere else. And, because you are not gawking at all that roto-scoped, anti-aliased, raytraced, 3D polygonal goodness, you are focus is squarely where it belongs.

    Kudos to the developers of this fine effort!

  • Wander

    This game looks to be the Shadow of the Colossus on the iPhone.

    Simply stunning, those who have any badmouthing to say regarding the artistic direction that the developers took when making the game, can't recognize the visual aesthetics that revolve around when composing something of this stature. What seems to be an homage to the realm of 16-bit pixelated eccentricity that was long endured by those who were a part of the 80's and 90's, this takes that and, representationally, revamps it to something more vivid that you'd have to expect a current-gen console to accomplish. Games like 3D Dot Game Heroes, Braid, and Cave Story continue to push the envelope by reminding everyone that long forgotten "linear" modes and styles of playing can be given a breath of fresh air and can be as fun as any "new" game out, if not more fun.

    My chief concern is hoping that the game doesn't become too environment-driven and that there is an emphasis on more than one enemy, aside from that I applaud the developers on this and hope they achieve more recognition.

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  • http://blog.cheetahdeals.com CheetahDeals Blog

    Oh it looks like the vertical mode video is gone. By the way you described it, though, it sounds kind of like Infinity Blade. I hope it's not because that's one of most disappointing parts of the game, the actual gameplay is so repetitive.