Entwined

Stood proudly on the magnificent stage at E3 in June of 2014 Entwined was revealed for the first time. From rookie studio PixelOpus the game, we were told, depicts the tale of two souls, a fish a bird, that are in love but can never be together. The game was released mere hours later with the Vita version, the one I played, following a month or so later on.

It came out to lukewarm reviews though but in August the game was free on Playstation Plus so I decided to dive in. I knew it was short and I needed a palate cleanser after the copious amounts of Rocket League and DOTA 2 I had been playing.

Entwined is broken up into 9 stages, each progressively more challenging than the last. The game pits you in control of those two aforementioned souls, each one on analogue stick. The game is extremely simple, though the tricks of that simplicity didn’t become clear to me until I really started to pay attention a couple of levels in. As you move forward through these zones you collect gems of the corresponding colour to the soul you’re controlling.

While you’re doing this you’re also maneuvering each spirit through a series of gates that correspond to their colour. Miss a gate and your progress bar drops back a little. There is no set beginning, middle and end of a stage; instead the level progresses until your bar goes below zero if you miss too many gates, or you complete it.

To complete a stage you have to fill up the bars and, once you’ve done so, hit the triggers and turn your spirits green. You then have to navigate a few more gates in this transcendental form before you reach the moment of euphoria and peace.

It’s here that I think Entwined suffers most. I am taken back to one of the finest moments of the last generation of games with Flower on the Playstation 3. In one level you’re flying, racing and gliding through canyons and crevices at extreme speeds before you break through into a field. The music changes, the wind halts and you just hold in the air. It’s a beautiful, masterful moment created by a team who understand the flow, feel and timbre of their own game.

It’s serene and it’s perfect. Entwined wants that moment at the end of each of its levels, but it’s never quite earned. The controls in this final section are a little unwieldy and awkward (though the same thing could be levelled at thatgamecompany’s Flower) and the juxtaposition between the previous section and this isn’t strong enough to create that feeling.

Flower earns it through a sense of speed. There’s a crucial distinction to be made, though, between speed and a sense of it. Entwined’s later stages do speed up, demanding a lot more dexterity from the player. The sense of speed rarely changes though; the tempo of the music doesn’t change, the world around you shifts at the same rate and while your thumbs are dancing a little more wildly the pace of the game never changes.

It's a decent enough first effort for a team of students, but falls well short of some of the inspirations in the genre. Still; there's promise here and I'm interested to see what comes next.