Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: Entwined (Sony PlayStation 4)

Review by Matt S.

Entwined is a bittersweet story about relationships. Abstract as it is, it's a heartfelt look at the way relationships function, and serves a reminder that communication within a relationship can be difficult, and can even break down, but the ultimate reward for getting it right is worth the work.

In execution, Entwined is a ridiculously simply game that has the potential to truly frustrate. Players control two flying animal-shapes at the same time - one bird and one fish. One with the left analogue stick, and the other with the right analogue stick. Each animal-shape needs to be navigated through small gates, while also collecting glowing objects along the way.

It's the way that the game asks players to move about its spaces that are most compelling. Most of the time the fish and bird need to move in unison, and the gates they navigate through come in specific patterns. Individually these gates are a simple arcade-style challenge; a matter of lining both animal-shapes up just right (the video game equivalent of tapping the head with one hand while rubbing the stomach with another). It's not that different from playing two games of something like AiRace at the same time.



However, over the course of an entire level a story is told; these animal-shapes move through the gates in an elaborate dance; a to-and-fro conversation filled with both agreement (when the shapes need to combine for a gate) and argument (when the gates are positioned as far apart as possible). Perform well enough and the bird and fish will combine, becoming a glorious shape that looks very much like an elegant phoenix, and they are granted a brief moment of complete freedom to fly around, with a rainbow trailing behind them.

But then the animals split and the next level begins. Entwined represents both the process of building a strong relationship and the ultimate brevity of true happiness before the work starts anew. It's a reminder that nothing is constant in relationships and that they need continuous development.

Entwined's core messages are helped by a truly beautiful sense of aesthetics. While the entire environment and characters are abstracted, the stark colours and beautiful background music combine to create quite an effective, emotional experience. There's a wonderful sensation of progression as the level builds towards its release, and that brief time with complete freedom creates a sensation of soaring achievement, before being whisked away far too quickly. When people talk about games as art, it's these kinds of games that they're talking about; Entwined is a simple, emotional story told in a clever and hugely effective manner.



There's not much to the game, and this suits me just fine. Outside of the story mode is a challenge high score attack. This has leaderboards and the like, but it focuses on the wrong strengths of the game; Entwined's power lies in its narrative, not in its gameplay mechanics, and so this challenge high score attack isn't the compelling experience that some might want it to be. The story mode itself is reasonably short, but looking at it purely from a quality perspective, there's more than enough here to justify its minimal asking price.

It's games like this that keep me interested in gaming; creative developers working on creative concepts and telling simple, effective stories in a manner that is only possible through an interactive medium.



- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld


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