Entwined Review for PlayStation 4 (PS4)

Entwined Review for PlayStation 4 (PS4)

Love and Pain

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.

Entwined Screenshot

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.

Entwined Screenshot

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.

There’s also a challenge mode, in which you have to try to rack up the highest score you can before getting three “misses.” Getting a high enough score unlocks the next level, and there are online leaderboards available for this mode. The chance of actual failure makes this mode less meditative, although the elemental themes of each challenge are still quite attractive.

Entwined Screenshot

It’s nice to see a game that is both high-concept and challenging, which is why it’s a shame that Entwined has occasional framerate issues. Dropped frames while navigating an obstacle nearly always mean failure, which is quite frustrating. It didn’t happen to me in every level, but it happened often enough to be annoying, and with the simplicity of the game and the power of the PlayStation 4, this sort of thing shouldn’t be happening at all. It’s especially bad news in challenge mode, because nothing is worse during a score challenge than getting a “miss” that isn’t your fault.

Entwined is one of the better digital games to be released on the PlayStation 4, although a lack of strong competition weighs into that estimation. It’s lovely and challenges gamers in an unusual way, but it is also hampered by an awkward (and possibly painful) control scheme and dropped frames. Still, if you’re one of those head-patters and belly-rubbers, it’s only $10, so why not give it a try?

Simple concept and elegant design work very well here. 3.0 Control
The controls present a unique challenge, but can be awkward or even painful for some players. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music fits the game’s atmosphere well, but is a bit generic. 3.5 Play Value
The addition of a challenge mode adds value to this short game. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Innovative new game mechanic that draws you into a state of ‘gaming Zen.’
  • Vibrant and abstract art style underwritten by a mesmerizing soundtrack.
  • Addictive challenge mode with five elementally themed levels to unlock .

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