I should be able to play the piano now.
Sometimes we play games and overcomplicate our senses with x-amount of buttons needed to perform x-amount of tasks. I remember back in the golden days of 16-bit systems when how many buttons on your controller dictated which games would dominate on that system (looking at you, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II). That tradition continues today with games like Diablo III and Final Fantasy XIV on PlayStation, where having more buttons means a better experience (although to be fair, both work better with keyboards).
Then there are games like Entwined, which preaches simplicity and that produces intrigue from said simplicity. Armed with two thumb sticks, you control a bird and a fish, who are madly in love with each other — yet nature keeps the apart. Your goal is to go through enough obstacles of fate (circles with shape segments in them that correspond to the fish and bird’s colors) to join the two lovers and create one beautiful body of a dragon.
Again, the key here is that you’re armed with ONLY the two thumb sticks on the PlayStation 4 controller. No button schemes are included during the gameplay portion of Entwined, well other than with the start menu. Developers Pixelopus and San Mateo Studio did a great job with making this game more of a relaxing experience that is solely focused on the task of bringing these two entities together, and less on the burdensome need of knowing a thousand buttons to push at any given time. This control element of the Entwined gameplay works well for the overall game and does what it intends on doing by the end — making a simple experience that keeps the gamer focused on the task at hand.
So what do you do in the game? Well, have you ever seen Nights into Dreams? If you need a reminder of that Sega Saturn beauty, you play a boy flying around in a dream world, going through a series of rings until he becomes Nights, a jester-like hero. The important part of that sentence is flying through a series of rings, which is what you’ll be doing in Entwined from beginning to end.
The fish and the bird fly through a series of rings that have colorful segments punched out of them. The fish has orange segments, while the bird has blue segments. Sometimes these segments have multiple segments directly behind them, which requires you to move the bird and fish in the corresponding patterns. The rings are divided into halves, so that you can only control the fish on the left side, while you control the bird on the right — they can’t crossover to the other side of each other’s ring half. The only exception to this restrictiveness is that there is a ‘come together’ green segment, which allows for the fish and bird to reside in the same segment.
As both animals are flying through the segments, they also pick up little shiny objects that increase their power meters at the top of the screen (there are two meters — one for each animal). When the meters start filling up, both animals start to join bodies. If they both end up maxing out the meters, then they unite and become a dragon. It’s pretty intense and spectacular to watch unfold.
The only obstacles that stand in their way is the gamer controlling them. If you miss segments while flying through them, then your meter is brought down a notch. The segment patterns can be damn hard in the later levels of the game (nine levels in total), but the mesmerizing trance the game will put you in will keep you going and going until you complete the bond. It sounds silly, but I beat this game in about 1-2 hours and never felt like it was a repetitive chore. The simplicity of the game as a whole kept me going, and I wanted to see the fish and bird finally end up together.
The gameplay at the end of each level sends the unified couple, as the dragon, into a large world where you can fly around and skywrite. Once the fun is done, though, it’s back to the grindstone with the fish and the bird and you move on into the next ‘lifetime’, which is what each stage of the game is called.
Let me just stress again, the simplicity of the controls and the game concept help to make this game fun, while taking away the repetitive nature. You’ll want to keep doing better and keep going further in the game, which is why you’ll still play it over and over again. The levels are endless, at least in the main story mode, so if you end up crashing and burning through segments, you will continue the game until you either get through the level or end up quitting. The game wants you to complete it and bring these two lovers together, even if it takes hours and hours.
Once you get done with the main story, you have ‘Challenges’ awaiting you. This is where it Entwined really gets pretty tough. You have five initial challenges waiting for you in Entwined, each can only be unlocked by completing the previous. You start off in the Water level, where you must score 180 points, doing the same thing as you did in the story mode, to unlock the next stage. Each stage has its own scoring number to achieve to unlock the next stage. It’s challenging, even more so than the story mode. It’s a nice addition to the overall gameplay scheme and will keep your brain engaged.
Speaking of keeping your brain occupied, visually Entwined is beautiful and as simple as its gameplay. You’ve got what could only be described as origami creature and environment styles, but with some PlayStation 4 power behind them. You get some great particle effects, fast-moving environments and large spaces to explore once you complete each level. It’s so visually appealing to watch in motion, which is another reason why it doesn’t feel as repetitive as it should, considering the gameplay content.
Only rivaling the visuals is the musical soundtrack. If you can imagine the soundtrack to Journey mixing with some relaxing synthesizer from the late 80s then you get the picture. Sam Marshall did a fantastic job composing the music for this game. It’s a perfect fit with the style and visuals.
So, is there anything wrong with the game? Yes, there is a bug the needs looking into and that definitely needs patching. During my sixth and seventh lifetime, I had bad stuttering, which randomly showed up — and generally when it was the worst time for it to show up. For example, when my bird and fish were about to dive into a ring, the game would stutter or freeze and then catch up suddenly. This resulted in me failing to hit the right segments at the right time, which extended the level of the game and increased the workload. This is clearly a glitch and needs to be resolved quickly, as it does affect gameplay and it does add some unnecessary frustration.
Regardless of glitch and some added frustration that comes with it, Entwined is still worth the time and money, especially since it’s only $9.99 and a cross-buy (I do intend on playing this on the Vita).
Onto the summary!