It’s no under statement that the Indy game market is what will save the gaming world of the current generation. While the triple A market are all focusing on graphics, large multiplayer matches, and how much DLC or (Downloadable Content) they can carve out of a game, the Indy developers are trying hard to create much simpler, much more focus titles that barrow a lot from the classic like Mario, Zelda, Castlevaina.
In 2014 a small studio by the name of PixelOpus released a game named Entwined which barrows from an old Chinese folktale where a bird and fish try over the course of serial lifetimes to come together as one. Once together, they merge into a mystical dragon that can paint the sky with colors but once the lifetime has passed, the two will break apart and must try again in the next life.
Back in 2014 the game came alone side another little game called Rocket League which has taking the gaming world by storm with Major League tournaments being held every month for the Major League Gamers out there. Entwined however is a single player adventure that after playing it will leave you a bit teary eyed in awe of its beauty.
As the player you control both the bird and the fish simultaneously with the right and left thumb sticks. The fish occupies the left side of the screen and the bird occupies the right side of the screen. Both can move up and down the screen following a semi-circle pattern. When the two meet at either the top or bottom they both turn GREEN. The player must navigate through a series of color coordinate shapes to gain what I’m calling chi instead of energy because this is a Chinese folktale. The characters follow alone mysterious tunnel passage through various sceneries and backgrounds that change depending on how well you’re doing and how close you are to maxing out their chi. Once the both chi’s are maxed players can then activate the fusion and play even harder to merge these two souls into one. If successful than the two souls become a magnificent dragon that can paint colors in the sky.
The art design is what I love most about this game. In today’s gaming world where most title only have seas of grays, browns, and particle effects, it’s nice to for once see a level design with simple shapes and bright colors. These colors when displayed in HD are more valent than the dusty browns and life like graphics. The backgrounds in Entwined are also simpler making them more eloquent to look at giving the mind just enough to paint a picture while still imagining the rest. In truth that is the true beauty in this game. It gives the player just enough to take interest and then lets their minds imagine the rest. It’s like storytelling only with a controller.
The two creatures themselves have a simplistic designed. Both styled with an origami theme. they also change behavior as the player progresses through the level, getting brighter and more energetic with each successful pattern matched. The game mechanics are some of the most unique uses of a controller I’ve ever seen. Your thumbs are the only fingers used to control the bird and fish while the rest sit idling. Because of this, the mind has to rethink how to move the characters about. Thus this game will require more cognitive effort than what is traditionally expected from the player. Throughout my broadcast one can see this increase brain power at work as I struggle to coordinate my thumbs to match the correct pattern sequence spending up to 10 or more minutes on some levels.
I think this game would make for a great neurological study on right and left brain control as the amount of concentration required from both is so enormous. In scientific terms the player is controlling two objects that must perform two different tasks at the same time for example, in the third stage of the game, the primary focus was similarity where both creatures must pass through the respected colors in a mirrored position. So if the bird has a blue pattern at the top the fish has a mirrored pattern at the bottom and vis versa. This was further complicated with the added variable of movement either up or down in the sequence. In later levels these color sequence become independence of each other with some containing a long chain of tightly sequenced patterns that move organically across the screen.
This constant changing of sequences forces the mind to re-calculate its options and to output two very different equations from each hand over the course of serial milliseconds. That thought process along is incredible and is a small testament to just how amazing the human mind is. There maybe similar apps and Flash games online that require a similar level of concentration however most simply increase the speed as you progress while getting the patterns and obstacles the same.
Further into the broadcast I began to take note of which hand was more adapt to the sudden changes in patterns. For me the right hand was the pattern master which is controlled by the left side of the brain responsible for logical thinking and scientific calculations. This is my dominate hemisphere and as the levels continue to get more and more complex the bird remains steady while the fish swims sporadic up and down the screen. Yet the right thumb is far from perfect and when the misses become too numerous the two thumbs will rage into a cognitive fist fight causing both sides to miss their marks
Some will probably argue that this intense level of concentration is a sign of bad game mechanics but honestly I like the challenge they present and in truth after a while the mind adapts and suddenly you become a pattern matching champion at the end plus the game rewards you with even more stunning visuals the more accurately you match the patterns.
Lastly, I wish to talk about the music in this game which is emotional, motivating, and beautiful all at the same time. Like the backgrounds that speed pass, the music progression changes as the character’s chi grows. When their chi’s are maxed the music suddenly launches into motivational bridge that propels the two souls into climatic merger. Once the mystical dragon is formed, the music suddenly tones down into quiet sendoff congratulating the player and awaiting the next level. The finally level however the sendoff is very eloquent and teary eyed and remains me of older couples whose love carries on even after death.
Overall Entwined is a beautiful game. It’s simple and eloquent design leads the player on journey across multiple lifetimes and various landscapes. At the final lifetime you merge into a dragon for the final time with the sense that you have indeed helped two souls find love. Afterwards you will want to play again to aid another only this time with greater speed and accuracy. I highly recommend downloading this game and experience the magic.