A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Entwined is a poetic downloadable game about a pair of creatures -- a bird and a fish -- struggling to be together as they hurtle through colorful tunnels. It's meant to be symbolic of the struggles and obstacles people face trying to find and be with the ones they love, as well as the joy of finally uniting with them. It doesn't have any violence, sexuality, or other form of iffy content. But controlling both creatures simultaneously requires some ambidexterity and may frustrate younger players.
What's it about?
Crafted by a small group of former game-design students, ENTWINED tells the wordless story of a blue bird and an orange fish that desperately want to be together. They soar side by side through colorful tunnels called "lifetimes," but they're forced to keep to their own sides, never touching. The player controls both creatures simultaneously, one assigned to each thumbstick. You must make them fly through color-coded gates and orbs to increase their respective energy bars at the top of the screen. Once these bars are full, the two creatures can finally join with one another and transform into a magnificent winged creature that enters a free-to-roam flying zone. After a few moments of joyous unification, the two souls are torn apart and forced to begin the process all over again in a new tunnel.
Is it any good?
Entwined is lovely, make no mistake. The kaleidoscopic imagery is beautiful, as are the two creatures that players control. Plus, the entire adventure is set to a soothing and dynamic score that changes according to events on-screen. Flying through gates will add satisfying tinkles and plinks to the music, enhancing an already lush soundscape. Without any violence or jarring action to interrupt the two souls' flight, the experience is almost otherworldly in its peacefulness, affording players plenty of time to ponder the meaning of it all.
Sadly, that meaning -- the notion that love is a struggle for two souls to become one -- is a bit too simplistic and idealistic to truly satisfy. The designers make this point in the first six or seven minutes (the time it takes to complete the first tunnel), then reiterate it repeatedly over the course of eight more levels. Also problematic: The clever, ambidextrous play mechanics turn out to be a one-trick pony. The gates through which the bird and fish fly become a bit more challenging over time -- they start to move and are placed in staggered formations -- but that's the extent of the game's evolution. We can always use more thoughtful and poetic games, but they need to be cooked a bit longer than this one.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what it means to love someone. Try to describe what love is and what it entails. How do you know whether you're in love? What are some of the different kinds of love you experience with the people in your life?
Families also can discuss symbolism in media such as Entwined. Some stories, like this one, use imagery and music rather than words to tease out ideas and emotions. How effective do you think this is? Are there any concepts that can only be expressed through words?
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