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“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.”


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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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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