What Is It?
Entwined certainly had the best stage possible to make its debut during the early portion of Sony’s press conference as Pixelopus, a team of students from San Jose State University and Carnegie Mellon, showed off their artsy project. The game is centered around an orange fish and a blue bird that are in love but can never be together, but they travel through tunnels synchronizing their motions in the hopes of uniting into a dragon to fly freely around a 3D space at the end of each level. There is a strong theme of reincarnation here as each level is referred to as a “lifetime” of these two souls trying to reunite one more time as a sign of neverending love, which is a neat way to frame this game that otherwise is more of an arcade-style experience that lacks scoring and endless levels to facilitate such an approach. That is all there is to the story here since they’ve gone for more of a lighter approach to the storytelling with a focus on the tunnel action.
Why Should I Care?
While Entwined looks like an art game, the gameplay is actually more like a traditional arcade game such as Tempest, but in an abstract manner that gets rid of scores and such to make it more of a hardcore game. You control both the fish and bird at once with each of the analog sticks moving them around the outside of one-half of the tunnel that you are travelling down. They can’t cross over to the other half of the tunnel, so you’re essentially rolling the analog sticks on the outer halves of the shell they’re encased in. As you move through the tunnel, there are blue and orange zones that pop up that you must navigate the bird and fish through their like-colored zones in order to fill up their respective meters at the top of the screen. Once filled, you then enter a state of potential reuniting where you must get through the zones perfectly without consecutive faults in order to reunite the two lovers into a dragon. You’re free to fly around a fairly large 3D space as the dragon, collecting energy around that level until you fill up a meter that lets you skywrite around the area before running out and moving on to the new level. The dragon section of each level is the weirdest part since there are no goals presented to you aside from the skywriting, which gives the impression that it’s just a little playground to roam around in as a reward for getting through the tunnel successfully.
As you might expect, the types of zones you have to get through in the tunnel start off basic at first before introducing new wrinkles such as moving targets, moving series of zones that require quick movements of the analog sticks to get through, shrinking and growing targets, and lots of other obstacles that try to trip you up as progress through the game. It never really gets that hard in the nine levels that make up the story mode, which results in a game that takes about an hour or two to beat. They do offer a challenge mode that focuses purely on the mechanics of the tunnel gameplay as you try to get through as many zones in a row without making more than two mistakes. There are five themed levels in the challenge mode that get progressively more difficult along with a trophy for getting a score of 300 in any of those levels. By comparison, you only need 180 to unlock the second level as the highest required score, so that seems like quite a lofty goal for my meager skills in the challenge mode.
Entwined is not without its faults. There is practically no way to really fail the story levels since the game will make things easier for you the more trouble you have, at least outside of people that are the worst in the world at using dual-analog controllers. I also feel that while the idea of the tunnel mechanic is neat, there is still something missing that keeps it from being a deeper game, like some sort of rhythm element or whatever, that keeps it from really reaching that next level to be a great game.
I experienced extremely bad freezing during my second session with the game while playing through the last seven levels of the game: random times throughout a level, the game would just stop for a second or two before resuming the action to make for the most jarring thing possible when trying to get through those zones as accurately as possible. I even used the native capture features of the PS4 to upload an example video of what I experienced to Youtube. To be fair, my experiences with this freezing were not as bad the following day nor while writing up this review, but they were still present for whatever reason that is causing it. The best thing I can figure out is that my first two sessions were before and after a patch on 6/14 and the only suggestions I received from one of the developers on Twitter was to try playing while logged out of PSN, so it may just be a result of that update or a freak accident that very few people experience even though it’s there for me.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Entwined has a nice, simple idea that it executes really well, but there’s not much meat on the bone here that makes this a must have game. The challenge mode is a nice bonus, but it highlights that this is purely an arcade game in arthouse indie clothing without the depth to it that would make this a great arcade game. You’re just going to play through the story mode once and maybe play some of the challenge mode to get its trophies before you’re completely done with the game. The freezing issues were a huge killjoy for my experience with the game, though I haven’t seen much evidence that this is a common issue on forums around the internet or from SmashPad staff member Danreb Victorio.
At $9.99, Entwined is best experienced at a discount in a few months as a way to wind down from the onslaught of shooters and action games we will have this fall. As a bonus, Entwined supports Cross Buy so that when the PS3 and Vita versions of the game are released at some point in the near future, you will get them for free as an added bonus, so you can play them wherever you prefer.