The lights are on
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons snuck up on me, but in a way I appreciated. Preview coverage for the game prior to release focused on the its odd mechanic – one player playing as a pair of independent brothers on a single controller. It was a pretty game with an interesting control scheme, but there simply wasn’t much to get excited about. After release, review scores for the game were high and our video producer Ben Hanson kept insisting I play the game, aware that it fell in line with the sorts of games I typically like. And he was right.
The game begins during a dark memory with the younger of the two brothers remembering when he failed to save his drowning mother. In the present, he stares solemnly at his mother’s gravestone remembering the terrible incident when his older brother calls him over to help move your ailing father. From that moment on, the story never takes a break.
Brothers only clocks in at about three hours, but the experience is perfectly suited to a journey that is shorter compared to most video games. For one thing, the adventure feels like it takes place in real time giving you the opportunity to fully embody the brothers as you push them along their journey. You never leave the siblings’ sides as they try to collect the medicine necessary to save their father.
The short length also lends the game a true sense of urgency. Comparatively, in Mass Effect 3, Earth is in peril as an alien menace invades the planet. Despite time being of the utmost importance, the game is large affording Shepard plentiful opportunities to play around in the universe and catch up with old friends. With Brothers, you only have a few hours to save your father, and the short length lets you feel like every ticking second is important. There is no on-screen timer telling you how much time you have, but the way the story is delivered and the speed at which you enter new locations make you feel like the clock is always looming behind you elevating the importance of the adventure.
When I played the game for the first time, I had not planned to play the game in one sitting – it just sort of happened. In the way a film is best experienced in one sitting to conserve the sanctity of the pacing, Brothers unveils the story in the same way. To leave the brothers behind to return to their adventure later does the full experience a disservice. Their adventure is a grueling one full of personal tests of strength and perseverance, and to take a moment of rest changes the journey in a small way. To truly experience their strife, it is best to play through the game in a single session.
Brothers perfectly encapsulates the argument that a game’s length is not a worthwhile metric towards its overall quality. Short doesn’t automatically equate to bad, an argument I have seen made countless times, and Brothers proves why. Any longer, and the game would have felt artificially stuffed and would have become increasingly difficult to become immersed in. At around three hours, Brothers is a full experience without extraneous elements, and one you should definitely carve out an extended session to dive into.
For more on Brothers: A Tale of Two sons, check out our Afterwords interview with the game's creator, Josef Fares here, or listen to the audio above. To read more about games you can beat in a day, check back at our hub over the course of the day.
Email the author Kyle Hilliard, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.