DID YOU READ

“Sword & Sworcery” Shoots to the Top of the App Store

“Sword & Sworcery” Shoots to the Top of the App Store (photo)

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Chances are, if you’re a gamer or are following one on Twitter, the #sworcery hashtag’s shown up in your timeline. It refers, of course, to “Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP,” the indie game just out for iPad.

A smidgen of indie developer insider buzz and in-the-know word-of-mouth preceded its release but, really, “Sword & Sworcery” was one of those games that you had to know about already to know about. Yet, despite its relative obscurity, it shot up to the #3 spot for paid apps for the iPad, with nothing to speak of in terms of marketing. One of the things that’s led to the viral, explosive success of “Sworcery” is the way it integrates Twitter. Nearly every scene or dialogue exchange can be tweeted, serving several different purposes. #Sworcery tweets tease those who don’t yet have the game, provide oblique hints for other players and reminds those who have completed it of what it was all like.

As the EP part of the name suggests, the game’s really a slim novella of an experience. Part of its charm is how it mixes Ye Olde English (as approximated by comics legend Stan Lee in the early issues of his work on Marvel Comics’ “Thor” ) with modern-day colloquialisms. Whether by design or by accident, that combo makes for hilarious, attention-grabbing tweets. For example, “Miraculously the sinister storm has lifted & glorious sunlight has returned to the realm so that’s totally awesome.” Or, “We Scythians loathe rainbows.”

Words make it sing, but it’s the aesthetic that make “S&S”‘ shine. Its expressionistic pixel art suggests the ideas of things, which adds to the hazy, lazy appeal of the gameplay. These dots mean a bird, those a deer, the ones over there assemble into a shadowy demon.

Gameplay-wise, the mechanics are light but enjoyable. There’s the occasional swordfight but, mostly, you walk around exploring and completing touch-based puzzles. Early on, you get acclimated to exploring the world with your fingertips and having it talk back to you in its own quirky, second-person voice. Rather than a game that dares players to conquer, “Sworcery” invites you to converse with it.

Such as it is, the conversation’s small talk but the best thing about “Sworcery” may be how, musically and visually, it encourages you to meander and take your time. Sure, the Scythian-the female warrior on an unspecified, “woeful errand”-has an overarching mission, but the player’s not prodded on in any real way. You’re going to see things on this quest. Go down that path and check out those graves. Oh, look, sheep! And you can shout out nearly everything you see on Twitter.

Underneath all of the aesthetics and gameplay is a great downtempo electronica soundtrack by Jim Guthrie, with just enough renaissance-fair flourish to keep it on message. The soundtrack itself is a meta-construct, too, video game music made from a video game (“MTV Music Generator,” as detailed here).

That fits for “Sworcery.” It’s a game full of its own self-consciousness and traffics in intellectual indulgences that pulls in Jungian dream theory, Conan the Barbarian references–the original Robert E. Howard books, thank you very much–and old-school NES games like the classic “Legend of Zelda.” But, every time you want smirk at its admitted preciousness , some undeniably cute animation or wry dialogue ping off your heartstrings. Like when the mystical Megatome book lets you read your canine companion’s thoughts, which go something like, “Bark, bark, bark. Sometimes I grow weary of barking all the time but a dog’s gotta do what a dog’s gotta do.”

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Super-decompressed genre conventions (like the girl named Girl or sentences like “The wood-chopping woodsman chopped wood.”) and built-in social networking make it a game that creates its own collective subconscious. All of a sudden, people know that other people know about this game. Granted, it does so very willfully, which drains some of the charm out of it. Nevertheless, the elegant design and the unalloyed delight that “Sword & Sworcery” evinces about games, philosophy and music draws you in and grab hold.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.