The lights are on
Swedish filmmaker Josef Fares passed up two films to make Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Starbreeze Studios, the developer behind games like Chronicles of Riddick: Assault On Dark Athena and Syndicate, were looking for their own unique project when they found Fares. An avid gamer, Fares sees the medium as a place where art can flourish. Brothers is his love letter to games, and the experience they can impart. Set in a fantasy world, Brothers follows the path of two siblings as they search for a cure for their dying father. Although both are independently controlled, Brothers is a single player game. As my hands-on demo opens on a country village, the first thing I notice is the unique control scheme. The older brother’s actions are relegated to the left analog, while the younger sibling’s are controlled by the right. Using the respective left or right triggers allows the brothers to interact with NPCs or the environment. The odd mapping takes some getting used to, but feels natural after only a few minutes, and I’m simultaneously moving both boys. Although you can control the camera manually, the dynamic perspective Starbreeze has implemented feels fluid and centers the brothers as they move.As I proceed through the village, the differences between my two characters become apparent. The older brother exhibits the qualities of a responsible caretaker, asking directions from strangers and assisting townsfolk with chores. The younger brother is impetuous and oblivious to others. Using the left trigger, I watch the mature brother help a woman sweep the street in front of her cottage. However, if I mirror this action with the younger character, he attempts to balance the same broom on his fingertips. Experimenting with the villagers yields results ranging from helpful directions to hilarious pranks. Starbreeze promises that no two NPCs will be alike in the game, so this curiosity could be a driving force throughout the journey.Entertaining as it is to interact with the townsfolk, I continue past the village. Although the game is fairly linear, there is room for exploration. Finding new NPCs, benches with panoramic views, and trivial side stories all lure me off the beaten path. Upon finding a bird in a cage, I release it as the younger brother. Fares assures me I’ll have the chance to see it again. Obscure events like this are littered throughout the game, many of which you can pass without you realizing it, encouraging exploration and environmental interaction. Just outside the village, I encounter my first puzzle. An angry dog blocks the brothers’ path across a small field spotted with hay bales. Should the dog catch one of the brothers, I’ll return to a previous area via a generous checkpoint system. To avoid this, I move each brother along separate sides of the field. Using the action button for each respective character emits a yell or whistle, luring the dog to that boy’s position, allowing the other sibling safe travel to the next hay bale. This alternation gets me safely across the field and past the angry hound. It’s a simple puzzle, but controlling two separate characters on the same controller adds a unique twist to the situation.Another puzzle presents itself as I come across a bridge controlled by a wheel-like mechanism. While the younger brother runs inside the wheel like a hamster, the older boy crosses the bridge. Picking up a sheep, I return the older brother to the previous bank to place it on the wheel, allowing both brothers to cross without the bridge rising again. Had I tried crossing with the little brother first, he wouldn’t have been strong enough to hoist a sheep. Learning the strengths and weaknesses of the boys is paramount in Brothers, as both will be utilized on multiple occasions.Fares and Starbreeze are stressing the importance of an overall experience in Brothers. None of the puzzles are going to be overly challenging, and the game will last about three or four hours. The dynamic between the two brothers and their varying interactions with the world is the main focus of the title. Set for release on downloadable platforms in spring 2013, Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons is showing signs of a novel experience.
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