CHALLENGE A GAME DEVELOPER to create something that appeals to haughty gaming critics while baffling the general public, and they'll either give you Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP or an interactive 29-second loop of Ulala making out with the Dreamcast logo.
(If you understood that last sentence, you might like Superbrothers.)
The game's pixel art style easily lends itself to descriptors like "neo-retro" and "16-bit Dadaism by way of Frank Frazetta," and despite the limited canvas, the action scenes quite effectively portray moments of violence. Given the game's inherently glacial speed—it's an adventure game, after all—the punctuation those scenes offer is surprisingly visceral, thanks almost entirely to the game's fluid animation.
Likewise, Superbrothers boasts one of the greatest soundtracks of recent years. Utilizing a clever blend of familiar yet original rock tropes and the beepity-boopity of the chiptune genre, the aural tone is like the hipster lovechild of Basil Poledouris circa 1982 and latter-day Trent Reznor.
See how incredibly up-my-own-ass this all sounds? The game is awesome, but I can't tell if it's awesome on its own merits, or purely because I'm a professional cultural elitist specializing in videogames (and I haven't even mentioned the glee I get from the game's endless call-outs to internet culture). The reviews of my colleagues are of no real help here, either: The critics all love Superbrothers, but then again, you don't get into this line of business without being a pretentious douchecanoe.
So, straight up: If you're looking for a classically enjoyable game—a Legend of Zelda, a Secret of Monkey Island, a Super Mario Bros.—this isn't that. Hand this game to most people and they'll sneer, and ask if they can borrow your Game Boy instead. However, if you sport a Triforce tattoo or own an Anamanaguchi album, Superbrothers should be a mandatory purchase. Without it, you aren't much of a gaming hipster.