Among the AAA game announcements this year at E3 was a pleasant surprise. Sony showed a clip of a beautiful looking “indie” game and said it was available now for the PlayStation 4. Entwined is the first game made by Sony’s Pixel Opus team. At €7.99 it is part of the cross buy plan so once it is released on the PlayStation 3 and Vita, owners will be able to play it on those platforms too.
There is almost no text in the game but we are told by the developers that it is the story of a fish and a bird in love who can never be together. They spend each lifetime trying to be together and become one, symbolised by them turning into a green dragon at the end of each lifetime. After they die they are reborn and the cycle continues as they try again. The story mode is under two hours long, along with this there is a challenge mode with five different challenges to occupy you and a leaderboard to compare your skills with.
The game has been compared to Journey and Flower but it reminded me more of Dyad’s level design and the control scheme of Brothers A Tale of Two Sons. You take control of the orange fish and the blue bird simultaneously. The left analog stick for the fish and the right for the bird, they cannot cross paths so each has their own side of the screen they can travel on. The only other game where I’ve been able to control two characters this way at the same time was Brothers. The level design then appears similar to Dyad, each level represents one of nine lifetimes for the fish and the bird and is made up of them travelling down seemingly endless tunnels of swirling colours and abstract shapes, collecting shining orbs to fill meters at the top of the screen. Whilst collecting these they have to make sure they travel through orange and blue panels that appear in their way, if they miss any of these panels they lose some of the energy from the orbs they have collected. There are also green panels that they have to travel through together. With the meter filled, the fish and bird must begin fusing together into a dragon by holding down the L1 and R1 buttons. If you miss panels at this point your connection breaks and you will have to build up the last of your meters again to restart the fusion attempt. After fusing together you leave the tunnel of colour and appear in a relaxing world as a dragon where you once again have to fill a meter at the top of the screen but are free to do it at your own pace with no threats around to knock the energy out of you. Once this meter is filled you fly the dragon around leaving a trail of light and are then reborn as the fish and bird to start the next lifetime and level.
Visually the game is beautiful and the designs of the fish and bird made up of simple shapes are excellent. The game can be frustrating though, you can get caught in a cycle of having your meter built up, missing a panel and having to build it up again, at points like this the relaxed music doesn’t fit the annoyance of the game at all. Where the music does fit is when you begin the dragon fusion attempt and it starts to build with you, adding to the tension and excitement of the end of the level. The reward of becoming a dragon at the end of each level feels flat though, the flying controls aren’t particularly fun so there isn’t a massive sense of freedom and invisible walls stop you going very far. It was only the final dragon level that was impressive for me for reasons I won’t spoil here.
At times Entwined can be more irritating than it is fun or relaxing, it wants you to be in meditative state with it’s relaxing soundtrack and mix of colour but I found this too much of a contrast to focusing on collecting the orbs and making sure to hit each panel, being caught in a loop of almost finishing the dragon fusion to having the build up the last of the meter several times at the end of some levels. The reward of becoming a dragon at the end of your lifetime leaves you in a level that feels more boring than it does rewarding. It is still great to see games like this getting coverage and support at E3. Even if Entwined isn’t as emotive or impressive as it set out to be, alternative attempts like this still stand out and are interesting to play.