AN EMOTIONALLY UNIQUE
Brothers : A Tale of Two Sons, kicks off this year's Summer of Arcade line-up. Developed by Starbreeze Studios, Brothers is a twin-stick adventure game, telling an emotional story of two brothers. Although it's an attractive looking game, it's poring with heartfelt moments. Starbreeze Studios don't hang around either, as the opening sequence begins with the younger brother knelt beside his mothers graveside. The siblings farther is also on his last legs, and this is what leads both brothers on a journey. They both set out to find a miracle cure, tackling many puzzles and dangerous obstacles along the way. It's a simple story, but one that handles emotion, humour and scares wonderfully.
The game sounds perfect for co-op. Surprisingly, though, Brothers is entirely a single-player experience. This is what makes the game so unique. Both brothers are controlled solo, using each of the analogue sticks. The left stick controls the older brother, and the right stick controls the younger one. Trying to compete with both brothers simultaneously can be a tricky task. There's times when you may send one brothers in the opposite direction. It can make your brain spin at time, but it's this control scheme what makes it so uniquely engaging.
Cleverly, the narrative contains not one single piece of English dialogue. It's all gibberish, like The Sims, and there's no subtitles either. The special thing is, Starbreeze Studios have done a magnificent job in illustrating the characters thoughts with actions. As the saying goes, Actions speak louder than words, and this is the case with Brothers. Their personalities are instantly shown on-screen. For example, It could be one of the Brothers holding up a map to a nearby villager, with them quickly pointed in the right direction. It's a simple, but effective touch, and one that never leaves you confused to what's going on.
The level design is fairly linear, so getting lost is never a concern. The environments never seem lonely as well. There's always plenty to see and do. Most of it can be missed if you rush through, so taking your time is the best way to experience the game in full. There's many interactions that can add a lot more emotion to the journey. One great example is when you stumble upon a field of playful black bunnies. If you wish, you could simply call a blind eye and carry along the path. If you decide to have a closer look, you will notice something. One of the rabbits is white, and left out from the fun. You could then pick up the rabbit and smother him in coal, allowing him to blend in with the rest. Discovering these small moments add a lot to the experience, and their always a delight to complete.
It's the connection between the two brothers what makes the game special. Not just in narrative, but in gameplay mechanics as well. Most of the obstacles you face requires aid from the older or younger brother. For example, Early on, you come across a lake that must be swum across. As you begin to stroll along the lake, you realize the younger brother cannot swim. You must then go back for him, holding down RT, so he can be pulled along. I began to feel sorry for the younger brother, and I was more concerned about him drowning, rather than having to go back and complete the section again. Not many games have me this emotionally connected, and it's one of the reasons why Brothers is worth experiencing.
A lot of time is spent climbing, leaping and shimmying. Along the way, you'll come across many puzzles that will stop you in your tracks. They're fairly lite, and never too taxing on the brain. One of the earlier puzzles requires you to pick up a sheep, then place him on a platform to lower a bridge. As you reach the caves, the puzzles become slightly more interesting. You'll be faced with levers to pull and moving platforms. This is when things can turn a little confusing. It's like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time. Even a few hours in, it's hard to control both brothers with separate tasks, but it does keep you immersed in the game.
The visuals are beautifully presented. It's very reminiscent of the Fable series, and it compliments the game very well. Some of the cinematic cutscenes are less than attractive, but at a distance, Brothers is a visual treat.
The only downside to Brothers may be it's lifespan. It's only a 3-4 hour journey, but it's certainly short and sweet. With it's unique control scheme, beautiful visuals and creative puzzles, Brothers is a journey you wouldn't want to miss.