|Release: June 9, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Becky Cunningham
Can you walk and chew bubblegum? Pat your head and rub your belly at the same time? Play the piano? The farther along you are on this continuum of doing two different things at once, the better you will probably be at Entwined, a lovely and meditative digital game that is deceptively challenging.
First unveiled at Sony's E3 conference on Monday, this project by a studio of former game design students is lovely in both sight and sentiment. It's the story of two beings who are in love but cannot be together, portrayed in the game by an origami-style fish and bird. The player must guide these two beings through a series of lifetimes (which function as levels from a gameplay perspective) in their quest to ultimately be together.
PARAGRAPH #3 The characters and their environments are simple but elegant, and there's a definite sense of flight as the bird and fish rush down a tunnel of abstract scenery and obstacles over the course of each lifetime. Upon successfully completing each lifetime, the player is rewarded by seeing the two animals merge into a majestic dragon, which is able to freely fly around an area that is modeled after each lifetime's theme, such as a day-glow ferris wheel for “liveliness” or a molten volcano for “anxiety”. The dragon can even sky-write across this area before literally flying towards the light into the next lifetime.
With soothing, though somewhat generic atmospheric music (I'd liken it to one of those soothing CDs you find in a display at the drug store) playing in the background, the full audiovisual experience is rather meditative, but don't mistake this for one of those non-game games. Getting through each lifetime involves an unusual dexterity challenge that can be equal parts pleasing and frustrating.
You see, the fish is controlled by the left analog stick and the bird by the right stick. Play takes place over two half-circles, and in order to best control the two, you are instructed to move each stick along the outer rim of its possible radius. It's a somewhat awkward position that I found to be physically painful after a lifetime or two, necessitating gameplay in short bursts, with long breaks in-between.
Actual gameplay involves collecting glowy gems as the two characters hurtle down their circular lifetime tube, then navigating color-coded obstacles in order to avoid losing the gem energy that has been collected. Fish must swim through blue-colored areas and bird through orange. Occasionally there will be green areas at the top or bottom of the screen, which are navigated by having both characters in the green at the same time. If you miss with either character, that character loses energy and must collect more gems in order to fill the meter at the top of the screen. You can't lose during the game's story mode as there's no game over for running out of energy. You can only take longer to get through each lifetime until you've collected enough energy to become a dragon.
Each lifetime has different kinds of colored challenges, and as the lifetimes go on, you'll more often be asked to do different things with different hands in order to get both characters through the obstacles. You may need to rotate the fish clockwise through a series of blue gates while the bird goes counterclockwise through the orange ones. I began to reach the limits of my coordination when I had to switch directions with both characters in different ways at the same time. Depending on your native abilities, getting to the end of Entwined could take a good bit of practice.