Somewhere along the way the attention to realistic graphics in video games feel like they've come at the expense of the indescribable feeling of "magic" of previous generation titles. With each game I've played over the years, the sense of wonder and amazement has faded, pixel by pixel, with every pitfall, cliche, and overused gameplay mechanic overdone repeatedly. Indie games however aren't restricted by the demands of publishers who often refuse to take big risks. Fortunately, Starbreeze Studios' exploration epic adventure, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is the exception, not the rule...
Many speculate Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons as a definite contender for Game of the Year. Does an indie title like Brothers have what it takes to go against blockbuster games that have million dollar budgets? I think it just might.
Unique Controls: The tale of these two brothers starts off with both wheeling their sick father to the town Healer, all in hopes of discovering the source of their father's ailment. During this short and non-threatening introductory task, players are also introduced to the unique control scheme of Brothers: players are given the responsibility of controlling both brothers on screen, at once!
The left analog stick controls the older brother's movements, while the main trigger (R2 for PS3 or RT for XBox 360) acts as the action button for flipping switches, grabbing onto ledges, etc. This setup also applies to the younger brother, except he's controlled using the right side of the control. The greatest challenge is learning how to manage both characters both separately and simultaneously on screen; it can admittedly become quite confusing to manage at first (especially when they switch places on screen). Fortunately in time the confusion fades, and I was able to overcome the confusion with an internal reminder, 'little brother is always right.'
Gameplay: Once at the Healer the brothers are told they need a magical cure for their father. Of course, the location of this healing ingredient is located in a land far, far away and the two must make the perilous journey to retrieve it. During this second cut scene players discover there's no real dialogue in the game. Instead, much like classic adventure and RPG games of the 8 and 16-bit era, Brothers relies upon a strong story telling element in lieu of recorded dialogue. Well partially, Starbreeze Studios opted for a fictional language without any subtitles, but the game primarily relies upon body language as communication. The decision to use body language and an imaginary language is wonderfully successful, transporting players fully into the medieval fantasy setting which truly feels far and away, like a timeless Nordic fairy tale where the each fantastical location feels rooted in both the imaginary and historical.
One of the most impressive features of Brothers' gameplay is how the whole journey, starting from the small village in the valley, out into the land of the giants or the mountain monastery, then to an icy wasteland, all feels natural and seamless. Each setting feels weighted with atmosphere, and I found myself feeling the chills throughout many points in the game.
Take for example the world of the giants (which alone is interesting enough for a whole other game itself). The developers surprise players by bringing the players into the aftermath of a great battle instead of the middle of it. Although the threat is long gone, the brothers have to work in tandem to activate giant sized crossbows to clear a path or climb an axe to pass over a ridge. It's an intense experience, as I found myself considering the giant-sized battle that just happened before the characters' arrival. And that's just one of the many settings the sibling pair need to pass throug during their journey, with many similar wondrous moments to take in and solve together, highlighting the cooperative core of Brothers' gameplay strewn throughout their adventure.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a short, but very sweet adventure game; it takes anywhere between 3 - 5 hours to complete, and after that there's really no reason for replay other than to complete all the hidden achievements or trophies. I'd compare playing Brothers to watching a summer popcorn blockbuster or reading a graphic novel: it's brief, but a thoroughly engrossing opportunity to get lost in another world for a few hours. Emotions will be touched, new lands will be explored, riddles solved, all with a thought provoking ending. But despite the short tale, you won't forget the adventure experienced playing Brothers.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was purchased by the reviewer for game review purposes.