Entwined is a charming proposition, one that you can’t help but respect and connect with upon first embarking on its unique attempt to tell a tale of love and companionship. Newcomer PixelOpus has set out to craft a thought-provoking and (dare we say it?) artistic experience that’ll sit comfortably alongside Flower, Child of Eden and Proteus as something more than the sum of its polygonal parts.
It’s a commendable goal, but one that Entwined falls to deliver upon. The underlying lore of a swan and a fish dedicating their lives to being with one another is enhanced and reinforced by an absorbingly crisp and colourful aesthetic, but it’s the quality of the interactions that let it down. It takes roughly 90 minutes to complete the main mode, but after 20 you’ve seen everything Entwined has to give.
On the left stick you control the fish, on the right the swan. You control these independently, steering each through their own set of wedges as they rush down a pre-defined tube. The speed picks up as levels (dubbed ‘lifetimes’) progress, making it more difficult to accurately guide the two friends as you approach the end. It’s impossible to fail, though, the level simply continuing until you’ve passed through enough wedges to fill up a green bar at the top of the screen.
Fill up the bar completely and fish and swan merge to form a green dragon, symbolising the strength of the connection they’ve developed as a result of successfully navigating the level together. As the dragon you fly around an open environment at your leisure, collecting orange/blue orbs to open the path to the next lifetime. Experience the turmoil of life, the bliss of true love, get reincarnated and repeat.
It’s numbingly repetitive after the first couple of lifetimes. While new levels are mildly more difficult than the last, you by no means have to master wedge-hitting to succeed. That might be the point (you don’t have to be perfect to win at love), but the fact remains that there’s not enough variety to hold your interest for long. Frame rate dips further spoil what is supposed to be a fluid, graceful affair.
Challenge missions are available once the main game is complete, all of which significantly more difficult than what they’ve done up to that point. The spike in difficulty is so severe that you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re playing a different game. Not adequately preparing players for what’s to come is a cardinal design sin.
It’s a shame that poor execution lets Entwined down so badly. The themes being explored here have the potential to be touching and are, unquestionably, underrepresented in videogames. Hopefully PixelOpus can learn from its mistakes and deliver something next time that better blends its interactive elements with these themes.