Sword & Sworcery EP Proves Innovation Still Wins for iOS Apps

Photo-sharing app Color is getting a lot of undeserved attention for raising way more money than it’s worth, but another iOS (s aapl) app was released late Wednesday that more than merits its hype. Superbrothers’ Sword & Sworcery EP (S: S&S EP for short) for the iPad is an intriguing new game that quickly rose to the top of the charts following its release.

S&S EP ($4.99) is a game designed exclusively for iOS devices, available now on the iPad, and in April on the iPhone and iPod touch. It’s getting a fair amount of early critical praise from gaming outlets, owing mostly to its original visual style and unique take on storytelling, which consists of in-game, tweet-length narrative snippets like those in the screenshot above. The graphics, created by design studio Superbrothers, are all retro 8-bit in a muted palette, but still manage to beautifully convey character, personality and real vibrancy thanks to clever use of animation effects and amazing composition. I may be gushing, but zoom out and take in the scenery on any given S&S EP screen and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The game also provides an impressive, immersive sound experience thanks to an original score by Toronto-based musician Jim Guthrie and voice-acting by Robert Ashley. It’s a title that’s best experienced using headphones, and one that luckily isn’t shy about telling you that upfront. Combined with the visuals and the compelling, oddball narrative, the sound in S&S EP results in a complete experience that will leave you momentarily dazed when you come up for air between the game’s episodic tracks.

At its core, S&S EP is a point-and-click style adventure game that provides a fairly straightforward linear gameplay experience that game studio Capybara designed. Enjoyment of the game comes not from overcoming challenges or solving particularly difficult puzzles, but from marvelling at the game world and how you interact with it. An added social level, whereby the game offers you the opportunity to share certain experiences within the game with your Twitter followers, enhances that enjoyment and makes it multi-user without making it multiplayer.

It’s the simplicity of S&S EP that makes it a winner of the App Store popularity contest (it currently ranks third among paid apps in the U.S. App Store) as well as of critical praise. The game is intellectually appealing to the gaming elite as a smart indie title with plenty of panache, and it strikes a chord with general iPad users because it’s easy to pick up and play, and there’s virtually no learning curve. When the game does require instruction, it helpfully pops up on-screen in the form of text directions, ensuring there’s never really a need to open a help menu or Google (s goog) a walk-through.

S&S EP is strong not only because it brings together the talents of three Toronto-based creative entities that each excel in their own fields, but also because it melds those three distinct fields together with insight and creativity, with the ultimate goal of providing a terrific start-to-finish user experience. If you’re looking for a game (or an app in general) like no other on the iPad, this is the one to get.