The lights are on
It had been quite a
while since I bought an Indie game from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace, let alone
the last time I turned on my Xbox 360. However, among titles such as Bastion, Halo 4, and Alan Wake, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is one of
those rare instances that turns me away from my PS3 to give my Xbox 360 some
needed - albeit short-lived - attention.
However, I did not expect my experience to be marked by my own tears this time.
Brothers tells a tale filled with laughter, camaraderie, danger,
and adventure, which are some of the things I anticipated that I would see.
Surprisingly, this is somewhat of a deceptive illusion. The game is also
sorrowful and dark due to eerie, disturbing themes and events. I found myself
in a constant flux of emotions ranging from cheeriness to unsettledness to
excitement. This also expresses how I feel about the game itself. There are
many praiseworthy aspects, but there are some negative ones that cannot be
ignored; I'm a bit torn and go back and forth as to how important each pro and
con is and how much a select few influence my opinion of my overall experience.
However, I can conclude that
Brothers certainly does not
disappoint. It constantly managed to keep my interest piqued primarily due to
its unique method of telling its remarkable story, emotionally charged music,
and stunning visuals.
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: 08/07/13 (Xbox 360) & 09/03/13 (PS3 & PC)
Overall Metacritic Score: 84%
majority of games follow the sensible pattern of controlling a single character
or group of characters at one time. In Call
of Duty, you act as one soldier. In Wonderful
101, you command a squad of superheroes that act as one. In Pokémon, you hold up to six monsters in
your inventory with up to three in an active battle, and the list goes on.
However, Brothers takes an
unconventional path by giving the player control over two brothers (hence the
title) with the right analog stick devoted to the younger one, and the left to
the older one. While this sounds intriguingly fun, it's not as easy or smooth
as one would expect. While the controls themselves are indeed tuned well and fittingly
simple (the only other buttons in use are the left and right bumper triggers,
which are used so that the brothers can interact with objects in the
environment), your mind can become jumbled up often when trying to maneuver the
characters. I found myself having to stop a lot for a few seconds when I
accidently crisscrossed the characters, which sent them running away from each
other due to the subsequent confusion my brain had trying to figure out how to
readjust their directions. Unfortunately, this is not a problem on Starbreeze's
part. The control scheme they implemented is inherently difficult to use and
would be extremely difficult to master. No developer could have made it any
easier or better. But does this excuse them from me complaining about it as a
negative? No, but it's important to know that this is not a fault on their
part. They did what they could with what, really, is the best control scheme
for their game, and that's what matters.
The only way to remedy
this to a significant extent is to keep the brothers in order on the screen
with the order of the sticks. Since the right stick controls the younger
brother, always keep him on the right side of the screen, and vice-versa for
the older brother. It makes an extremely significant difference, so make sure
to do this while playing.
As for the actual
gameplay itself, it has the makings of an adventure game with a focus on platforming
and puzzle solving. Traversing levels by jumping, climbing, and inching across
ledges is great, which functions well and feels nice when your mind doesn't
need to focus on keeping the brothers from veering off the path. Some actions are
more demanding, which require decent timing and specific button presses (especially
with one, particular sequence involving intense teamwork), but these things are
good; the whole experience is void of unnecessary complications in this area.
On the other hand, the puzzle solving is somewhat disappointing. Figuring out
how to access certain areas and beating what little bosses there are is far too
effortless. Perhaps this was an intentional design choice to keep the story of
the game moving at a good pace, but I would've personally loved a mix of
puzzles with ones that were larger in scope and more complex to solve.
All of the gameplay
definitely shines and works well when it does, but the annoyingly intrinsic
problems of the controls and the undemanding puzzles hold the game back a bit
in some ways.
Some of the characters along the way assist you in your journey.
Sound Effects: There's not much to tell here. Everything sounds
high quality and realistic. Boulders tumbling down a hill, the creaking of a
rope under strain, the roar of waterfalls, the ambience of a large cavern or a forest
in the middle of autumn...you name it. Nature is not only well portrayed, but
sounds good too.
Voice Acting: Brothers is an interesting case in that there is an
element of voice acting to it, but it's sparse and unintelligible because the
language the characters speak is completely made up and isn't heard often. One
would think this is an odd decision, but it ends up being ingenious in uniquely
telling the story and deepening the characters. Instead of being told what is
being said, you have to rely on your own interpretation of the characters'
inflections and body language to imagine what they're feeling and saying to
each other. Thankfully, there is so much to go off from it. The voice
performances of the characters (especially the brothers) are heartfelt and
natural, which makes them easy to connect with on an emotional and personal
Music: The soundtrack in Brothers
is absolutely phenomenal. It has Celtic and Nordic musical influences,
which make it reminiscent to the music from the Lord of the Rings films, and just
like how it makes the films feel so much more mythical, adventurous, and grand,
it has the same effect on the game. It simply wouldn't feel the same without
it. The spine-chilling vocals and haunting violin that fill the most pivotal
scenes are well placed and fitting. And although I wish there was more music,
the quiet, soothing ambience that's present throughout most of the game was a
better route to go with in the end. Too much music would have felt overbearing
and unnecessary, even if it had been excellent.
There are pretty vistas to gander at in this game, which made me stop to appreciate the hard work that went into them.
Indie games have a knack
for possessing a particular charm in their visual styles. Journey, Bastion, Limbo, and
Thomas Was Alone are only a handful
of titles that exhibit this flair I speak of, and Brothers is no exception. The environments are robust and
surprisingly vast in scope, bursting in detail with vibrant color and aesthetic
appeal. There are even benches that the brothers can sit on at certain points
in the game that zoom out to give a broader look at impressive, breathtaking
views. This is further bolstered by the constantly changing scenery, which
never feels rushed at all. From snowy towns to leaf-laden forests to, shall we
say, unsettling locales, Brothers is
a visual spectacle to behold. Starbreeze created a beautiful world brimming
with myth and mystery.
One day in a quaint village
near the misty shores of an ocean, a pair of brothers discover that their
father has been stricken with a fatal disease. When they bring him to the local
physician, he indicates there is a chance to save him. However, they must go to
foreign, dangerous lands to find this cure. Out of deep love and bravery, they
go headlong into this quest regardless of the possible consequences.
The game may start with
a grave issue, but I thought it would turn into a joyous journey filled with
excitement and satisfying, continuous payoffs. Although there were certainly
points in the game that met this initial impression of mine, much of the story
presents hardships for the characters, which results in multiple disturbing,
depressing, and challenging scenarios for them. At one point during the game, just
as I mentioned in the first paragraph, I actually cried at what was taking
place in front of me. It was the first time I had done so while playing a game,
and this is simply due to how beautifully and elegantly this specific thing was
presented. When the game eventually concluded, it received a rare ovation from
me due to its unexpected poignancy and brilliance with not only the story
itself, but with its pacing, themes, and presentation. It's easily the best
part of the game and alone warrants this game's value.
The strong bond these brothers have becomes evident over time, and It keeps them going.
me that Brothers is a 3-4 hour-long
game. Although the length is appropriate and understandable, $15 is a bit of a
steep price to pay, especially since there's no extra content (besides the
usual achievements). I wish it had been at least 5-6 hours long because I could
have definitely seen this game having more locations to traverse, a longer story,
more characters, and deeper character development. Regardless, I still think Brothers is a worthy game that should
definitely be played by all. The price may deter some due to its length, but if
it were less than $10, there is no excuse for any person to not buy
Although Brothers is a bit short, lacks
compelling puzzles, and is a bit annoying at times to control, the beautiful
visuals, emotionally deep story, moving music, unique voice acting, and mostly
wonderful and simple gameplay make it something that leaves a lasting
impression. It should rank among the best of Indie games for what it is and how
well it accomplishes its novel and daring ideas. You could say that this game represents what everyone is craving for
on the game market in an age oversaturated with uninspired games. And although
this may be at the cost of a few minor missteps, I'm more than willing to
accept those with the whole package when it comes to memorable experiences like
8.75 / 10
Great review--I'll definitely pick this up at some point or another. The short length actually encourages me to do so, seeing as it won't distract too much from some of the longer games I have in my backlog.