Entwined made a dazzling entrance at Sony’s E3 2014 press conference, but if you saw that, you don’t really need to play it. The main wow factor of this game is the concept of two souls who are apart but are always fighting to be together, translated to you via bright, flashy tunnel-runner style gameplay. The story trailer was very impressive and emotional, and I felt for those two souls. Fish and bird could love one another, couldn’t they? It turns out they can, but they also turn into a dragon, and their journey isn’t quite as heart-squeezing as I had hoped.
I’m not happy to say that the cinematic trailer is the most emotional part of this game. I saw it and wanted more! I wanted to play the game and feel those same emotions, only better. Show me how heart-wrenching it is to be separated from someone you love. Make me go through the heartache of trying to push your way through the world to be with your kindred soul. That happiness once two souls are united better be in there, too. But none of those things were there. Those emotions never even reached the same intensity as the cinematic trailer, which is also the first and only story scene.
I did experience a lot of frustration though. Being frustrated at playing this tunnel-runner/sort-of rhythm game is not the same emotion as being separated from a loved one, if that’s what they were going for. My frustration came from trying to be precise, and being told my character was not quite lined up to the target as we passed that point in the tunnel. I have experienced this a lot in games that require exact moves. I could have sworn that I did it right, but the game said otherwise. This happened over and over and over. This would have been okay if there was some kind of difficulty adjustment after failing too many times — Oh wait, there was! But then that’s where my experience of the game was ruined too often. It seemed that each level’s “targets” in the tunnel were coordinated somewhat rhythmically with the beautiful soundtrack for that level, but if one target was missed, that synchronization was smashed and it totally ruined any emotional investment in the level.
The levels were thought out, too. They told a little bit of the story, because each one was a “life” in which the fish and bird had to struggle to become one again. For example, one level had a city vibe which felt relatable on a real-world level, hinting at the struggle of an urban relationship. Another was a very natural zen-like level, which spoke to the more spiritual part of a relationship. So, the fact that Entwined used some rhythm elements — loosely, to my frustration, was really a good tool to make me more emotionally connected with the plight of the fish and bird, but then each mistake totally negated that connection and added a lot of frustration.
If the game was somehow easier to maintain the emotional connection, or maybe leaned more toward a rhythm game to tell the story, I would have enjoyed the actual gameplay a lot more. I also would have been able to fully enjoy the fascinating visual effects that were constantly swirling past. Each level had a different theme that was pretty unique to itself, which is impressive because I didn’t think nine “lives” would go by without a little repetition. I found myself thinking that this game would do really well in 3D. It would be much more immersive, helping the vague emotional story along a bit. If it was in 3D, maybe I could more accurately align the fish and bird with their respective targets and not fail so many times. I had trouble grasping the perspective of the targets with the speed at which I moved toward them. I’m not sure if that’s because I suck or because the game was made with a little less exactness than this type of gameplay needs. Again, if it was more than loosely rhythm-based, hitting the targets would have come more naturally to me.
When I finally completed each level I would let out a sigh of relief; That frustrated sigh many gamers may recognize that says ‘THANK GOD THAT’S OVER!’ After that, I would get to enjoy flying around as a green dragon, through a little place that represents the theme of the “life” you just completed. The light painting you may have seen in Sony’s E3 demo was pretty, but a little underwhelming. The controls were clunky, and the painting was short-lived. I wanted to be able to write a whole glittering word in the sky, but the controls and the light painting meter didn’t let me. I did end up taking a few screenshots from those various light-painting moments, though. It was still very beautiful.
So, if you really love this type of game (tunnel/artistic), you may enjoy Entwined. But I ended up hating the mechanics, and that ruined the experience for me. The emotions didn’t come through, and the colorful visuals didn’t make up for it. I’ve played much better, simple, artistic games than this. The cinematic trailer and the actual game don’t quite match each other. It feels more like a game demo meant to showcase the PS4 and Sony’s support of indie developers. There are good aspects to Entwined, but being a frustrating, arcadey, tunnel game completely overshadowed any kind of art and emotion I was meant to feel, and that was the biggest let down of all.
Review copy provided by publisher. Will release via cross-buy for PS3 and Vita with release date to be determined. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.