Review

Entwined Review

  • Game release: June 9, 2014
  • Reviewed:
  • PS4

Circling toward heaven.

Two creatures--one a fish, the other a bird--come together and then are pulled apart, their love undeniable, and the rules of nature difficult to overcome. Entwined tries to tell their story, but it is not very adept at communicating a sense of romance, though it is nonetheless calming on its own terms. The journey is short and comforting, a simple coalition of ambient beauty and pattern recognition. Yet for all its gentle delights, Entwined is also too ephemeral for its own good, its sweet whispers tempting you onwards, and then dissipating into the wind once the experience has ended.

On the right side of the screen, blue rectangles and triangles come together in the shape of a soaring bird; on the left, an equally angular fish swims along. The two flit through a tunnel swirling with abstract visualizations and glowing orbs. Each creature is only allowed to move within its own hemisphere, the right side representing the air, the left representing the sea. The two may come together at the top or bottom of the screen, where they each turn green and emanate a soft chime, as if their adoration for each other is so great that they cannot help but glow with excitement. As the bird and fish automatically travel through the vortex, blue and orange windows appear, and you are to navigate through them, seeking to reach a state of unity in which the two beings merge into a single wondrous creature. The bird is controlled with the right stick, and the fish with the left.

Entwined is awash with sound and color, and its primary goal is to lure you into a trance with its pulsating music and symmetrical patterns. The game is separated into nine stages, called lifetimes, each of which radiates its own kind of comforting energy. In the fourth lifetime, for instance, you travel through a rust-red cavern in which a steady synthesized melody keeps the tempo, and heaving guitars cry out responses to it. As the bird and fish float through their checkpoints, a drum beat sounds out, and the two creatures become part of the level's rhythm section. The placement of the windows creates a rhythm of its own, causing your thumbs to flick with urgency, in contrast to other levels, which require smoother thumb movement. Each lifetime finds subtle ways to mesh the gameplay’s patterns with the musical accompaniment, though the gameplay itself doesn’t greatly vary during the hour or so it takes to complete the story mode.

Ultimately, Entwined doesn’t boast much diversity. The cylindrical structure of each stage may recall 2012’s Dyad, but where Dyad made each stage a new opportunity to do something new, Entwined is relaxed and comforting, and at least in its story mode, rarely provides much challenge or variety. Left- and right-stick movements are typically parallel in the most obvious manners, and when they are not, one creature usually needs to simply stay in place while the other navigates through its checkpoints. Halfway through the game, I longed for a new idea, an unexpected pattern, or a more poignant thematic representation of the two characters’ unfulfilled love. It wasn’t until the last minutes of the final level when the lifetimes coalesced in any meaningful way, but the pretty visuals gave way to a tedious object hunt that sucked the joy from the screen.

Entwined is awash with sound and color, and its primary goal is to lure you into a trance with its pulsating music and symmetrical patterns.

Tunnel of love.

That hunt occurs in the same kind of denouement that ends each level. The two animals, finally united (in death, it would seem), bond and transmogrify into a fantastical fishbird that you control freely. These sequences only require that you collect enough floating orbs to fill a meter at the top of the screen, at which point you then etch a pattern into the air, with vibrant color trails emanating from your wings and forming rainbow-colored ribbons that remind me of musical staves. There is no greater objective here than to collect and to skywrite: this is your reward for uniting two halves into their romantic whole. The imagery is always beautiful, though just as with the primary gameplay, I longed for skywriting to have more meaning than just “pretty.” The post-union flights bring with them some catharsis, but it’s fleeting. The ebbs and flows don’t create waves of emotions so much as minor ripples.

Challenge levels provide more intellectual stimulation than the story, giving you three lives and removing one for each colored window you miss. You must remain active for a certain number of seconds to unlock the next challenge--and you must remain active for even longer if you wish to have any hope of rising to the top of Entwined’s leaderboards. Sadly, some of the fire challenge’s sound effects have a habit of going missing, a hitch almost as distracting as the pause that occurs in the transitions connecting each level’s core gameplay and the soaring celebration that follows. But these moment don’t define Entwined. This is a lovely, gossamer experience that lifts you into the clouds and then quietly brings you back to earth, happy for the time spent, and your mind free of the detritus that originally cluttered it.

The Good
Beautiful abstract visuals and excellent sound design
Rhythmic gameplay subtly complements the music
The Bad
Themes and gameplay are disappointingly shallow
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Kevin VanOrd has taken many an abstract journey in his day, and Flow and Flower remain two of his favorites. He played Entwined's story twice, and completed every challenge level.

Discussion

34 comments
adino86
adino86

The industry should shed more light onto those kinds of games. Exploring new dimensions the medium could still churn out what with the new hardware and competing developers. Abstract concepts could communicate better to the psyche and emotions when utilized and directed to achieve an impact. 

squand3r
squand3r

wow, i must applaud Kevin for this review - for a game that short on content he found a great deal of words to say - all of them meaningful. 


I personally love Entwined - its story could be more fleshed-out and believable, but the experience itself is so smooth and relaxing that I can't wait to return for one more try. Oh and the music, can't wait to get my hands on the soundtrack

xXl_z3r0_lXx
xXl_z3r0_lXx

I think Kevin VanOrd needs a fake sitcom audience to soundtrack his daily life at gamespot. 


Hurvl
Hurvl

Gamespot gave this game a 7, not 8! Two other recent reviews received a 5. Gamespot doesn't always hand out 8's, but when they do people will cry out "8spot" and similar. That is called confirmation bias, i.e. not giving a damn about stuff that doesn't fit in with your preconceived notions.

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

Themes and gameplay are disappointingly shallow.

Maybe themes a little, but gameplay is awesome. Really needs concentration and pricesi moving of both sticks , i love this game.


Indie rating for me is 9/10 just because game stuggers every now and then, so hope there is a small patch for that.

thunderborne
thunderborne

Well-written review. I might pick this up sooner or later after Child of Light.  Plus I want to support my alma mater.

RussellMartin
RussellMartin

I bought it and hate it! I was hoping for a heart felt story, based in the description. Fish and bird in love and can't be together unt til they can and then they become a dragon.... There is nothing in the game play about this... Yes a dragon at the end if the level.... Whatever. Wish I could get a refund.

breathnac
breathnac

This title popped out of nowhere during E3

expeditopaz2008
expeditopaz2008

This game reminded me of Child of Eden. More than Dyad...

NiteX
NiteX

I was thinking it was Dyad, but on schrooms instead of acid.

biggest_loser
biggest_loser

Hopefully its better than that Flower rubbish. 

enuo9
enuo9

I thought this game was wonderful.

wEEman33
wEEman33

WE
ARE 
EN

TWINED
BY
VEN

GEANCE

oflow
oflow

@adino86 Theres actually quite a few games like this out or on the horizon you just have to keep you eyes open for them.  Games like The Source, Kromaia, INSIDE and Below.

I also love these type of games and their art style and think it would do a service to say MMOs by making a sandbox MMO like Journey with no instructions but just all exploration and discover.  Would really put the RPG in MMOs which is currently seriously lacking in all the WoW clones. 

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@RussellMartin You do not get the point of a game as this. its about challenge and concentration and abstract state of mind, not really about a story or achieving in becoming a Dragon or what not.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@freedomzealot I am sorry that this game--and it is indeed a game, with goals and interaction--does not meet your ideas of whatever a "game" is. How sad that you can't enjoy such a lovely experience because you have cast it into some pile of "non-games." 


Also, I don't get high. So try again on that one. 


I also love when the word "hipster" is used in a circumstance like this, as if games are never concerned with providing an interesting audiovisual experience. Games are primarily an audiovisual medium, and developers strike all kinds of tones when creating. If enjoying a game with attractive visuals and music makes me a hipster, well, I guess that is what I am. And I am glad I have the capacity to like such a thing, and don't have the kind of wooden heart that would have me dismissing a game for--what is it you are dismissing this game for again? Being pretty? Having nice music? Help me out here. As far as I can see, your criticism is... nothing? And you just like to complain?

EEKman71
EEKman71

@biggest_loser I liked flower and I hated this. Its like an even more pointless flower. The levels were not relaxing, just annoying, the joining of the two 'spirits' had no real payoff and the graphics were like a ps2 game. 


I enjoy a zen hipster game from time to time but this missed the mark for me. 

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@biggest_loser I love Flower. If you thought Flower was rubbish, I doubt this is the game for you.

squand3r
squand3r

you are right, 'story' is actually not the correct term - 'concept' fits it more, I don't think that the fish-bird myth has been treated in an appealing way. There could have been endless possibilities in terms of art and drama - the 'story' told therefore is rather bland.

In terms of content the game is rather weak imo. Each story piece is actually the same with nothing else to do like in prior stages (pointed out by Kevin as well) - I would also have a appreciated some sort of multiplayer.

Despite all that: this is a great game and I absolutely recommend it.

RussellMartin
RussellMartin

I know, it's just that the description implied a different kind of game. I should've researched it more before purchasing it on a whim.

xXl_z3r0_lXx
xXl_z3r0_lXx

@Kevin-V *90s sitcom fake studio audience oooing and then cheering in the background*

xXl_z3r0_lXx
xXl_z3r0_lXx

@Kevin-V @WolfgarTheQuiet @RussellMartin *90s sitcom fake studio audience oooing in the background*

Setho10
Setho10

@WolfgarTheQuiet @EEKman71 @biggest_loser Well in a game whose main selling point is the audiovisual presentation I would say the graphics matter. If I am going to buy a 90 minute game I expect to be exceptional in all ways. Not saying I agree with his statement that the visuals are bad, just that for a game with barely any content and little replayability I expect the content that is there to be exceptional across the board. Journey, Flower, and Portal are some of my favorite examples of games that lasted only 2-4 hours but which were close to flawless for that time. I am willing to pay for a brilliant short experience. But it does have to be brilliant.

Entwined More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • PlayStation Vita
    • PS3
    • PS4
    Entwined is a PlayStation 4 game created from a team of graduates from Carnegie Melon and San Jose State.
    7.5
    Average User RatingOut of 12 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Entwined
    Developed by:
    PixelPlus
    Published by:
    SCEA, SCE Australia, SCEI, SCEE
    Genres:
    Action
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    All Platforms
    No Descriptors