Entwined is a journey that literally goes nowhere but figuratively encompasses a lifetime. This ambitious title had one of the greatest release date send-offs imaginable, soaring into the PlayStation aether from Sony’s E3 2014 press conference and onto home consoles everywhere. Pixelopus delivered a great visual demo at the event, displaying evocative yet simplistic gameplay, and the only thing left to accentuate such a stupendous event is an equally glorious product. Luckily for PlayStation enthusiasts, the product leaves a lasting impression.
Entwined begins when a blue origami bird comes to rest on the water as an orange fish surfaces to meet it. From there, the bird leads the fish into the sky, speeding directly into gameplay. The journey to the end of the game treks through nine lifetimes, and each lifetime differentiates the path’s movement, difficulty, and requirements—more on that in a bit. Half of the screen is dedicated to each creature, and each creature is controlled by the joystick relative to that side of the screen; the fish on the left is moved by the left joystick, for instance.
The overall path increases in difficulty for each lifetime, and the necessity for specific movement between the bird and the fish becomes more taxing. Though the difficulty increases, the frustration wonderfully doesn’t. Both creatures must gather orbs scattered on their relative paths in order to build a sort of synchronization gauge at the top of the screen. Each creature must maintain that gauge by hitting gaps that appear in their way; failing to do so will degrade that creature’s gauge synchronization. Once the two gauges meet in the middle, a linked state between the two visually occurs, and both the fish and the bird must follow their paths accurately in order to finish each lifetime, or the linked state will be lost. When a lifetime is completed, the fish and the bird combine into a green dragon, and the final portion to each map is a small free-roam map where collecting colored orbs is the only requirement to move on.
Mechanically, the game plays wonderfully, showcasing vibrant, clean colors and simplistic play. At that, the wonder of Entwined is not exactly in its execution but rather in its ability to philosophically simulate a relative yet general concept of relationships. The trophies to this game even play a part in absorbing the message conveyed in Entwined. Titles like “Innocence,” “Liveliness,” and “Loneliness” put words to each lifetime in a way that draws reflection in a way simply thinking about the game could not. The obstacles passed through also emulate those words, as the shapes and their movement take on the expressed feeling of each lifetime; the obstacles becomes more jagged and spontaneous for “Anxiety” while being smooth and slower in “Innocence.” Accompanying this is a spectacular musical score that accentuates so well what’s taking place that the overall game imbues a feeling of intense meditation and sensational absorption. It’s incredibly immersive, calling back to PlayStation gems like Flower and Journey.
The lifetimes themselves exhibit great variety and aid in the flow-state immersion. Dark, warm colors and light, cool colors add a sense of tranquility to the time spent bringing two unlike creatures together.
This brings up one of the only things negative about Entwined: color confusion. The overall flow is unflapped for the vast majority of the game, but as the lifetimes themselves enlighten down the line, the brightness tends to disguise the orbs that need to be collected, resulting in slowed progress not due to lack of ability but lack of vision. Apart from that, the only true negative that can be placed on Entwined is that the five elemental challenge modes don’t really give the one-hour campaign much reason to come back and play. The game itself is very invigorating on philosophical and subliminal levels, but it’s limited by the amount of content it delivers. That said, believe me when I say that any downloadable content for this game would be equally worth every penny, as is the $10 game itself.
Pixelopus had a golden opportunity to shine on the Sony press conference stage at E3 2014, and the product it showcased shined in ways that many games can only dream of mimicking. In a glorious, minimal style, Entwined delivers an experience that’s deep, engaging, and rewarding way past experience points and in-game rewards. It blessed me with the warm peace of creating a connection between two very unlike entities and seeing their glorious union fly higher than either could on their own. The message is brief but everlasting.