Entwined (PS4): A Short Pause Review

Allegedly, there exists an ancient tale about a bird and a fish. These two creatures are soulmates, but share a love that is only experienced when each passes from this physical life, and into the eternal beyond - wherein their two souls become one...

...in the form of a dragon?

I don't know. I'm pretty sure that's how the story goes. It's what's implied as you play through the two-or-so hours that Entwined has to offer, anyway.

There are nine "lifetimes" to experience as both "Bird" and "Fish." You use your thumbsticks to navigate "Bird" and "Fish" through tunnels (of love?), attempting to fill their souls by passing through gates (for lack of a better term). Once you've successfully filled up both souls, you pull the triggers to engage the souls in an act of entwinement, allowing "Bird" and "Fish" to become "Dragon."

"Dragon"

As "Dragon," you fly around small, minimalist vistas to collect orbs. These orbs fill a meter which, once filled, allows "Dragon" to summon a reincarnation of "Bird" and "Fish" into a new tunnel, or "lifetime."

I found the visuals to be striking, though some may find them too abstract. I think the music (which fills itself out as you navigate through more gates and further fill the souls) is beautiful, and matches a mood the game so desperately tries to evoke. And this is my biggest issue with Entwined: It wants to be - is trying so hard to be - something much greater than what it is.

Bird. Fish. Dragon. Feelings.

Games like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Flower, and Journey tell incredible, touching stories without words. Brothers and Braid let the gameplay express the intended emotion. With Entwined, you're pretty much playing Tempest without having to deal with any threats.

I suppose not filling the souls is a threat to the love of "Bird" and "Fish," but without doing so, the two at least get to peacefully co-exist forever (there is no time limit for attempting to kill them to become a dragon). Where there was always a sense of wonder about what would happen next in Brothers, or what The Wanderer would see in Journey, I found it difficult to care if "Bird" and "Fish" would ever entwine.

In fact, some "lifetimes" get downright frustrating. For as simple as the gameplay is, you'll curse it for being unforgiving. Brent and I both experienced issues where we knew we hit the gates but the game suggested otherwise. One could argue that this is Entwined's way of expressing the hardships and struggles the two animals deal with, but I get the impression that the developer, Pixel Opus, hadn't planned it like that.

Threatless Tempest.

If the developer had called Entwined something else (like Tunnel Runner), and didn't try to hide the gameplay behind the pretentiousness of a tale as old as time, I might not be so hard on the game. Heck, that's basically what the game's Challenge Mode is anyway (it's just as occasionally unforgiving). As it stands, they tried and failed.

The other side of this coin (valued at two cents) is to think of Entwined as Pixel Opus' flOw. If that's the case, then it can only get better from here.

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Positives

  • Lovely to look at!
  • Fun to listen to!
  • Easy to pick up and play, but...

 

Negatives

  • ...the act of playing can be frustratingly unforgiving.
  • Throw away story reaches for "the feels," and fails.