Saturday, January 17, 2015

Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons Review

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I recently became interested in getting a few controllers with the intention of playing local multiplayer games with friends when they come over. A happy side effect to this is that I can also play games that are better suited to a gamepad than mouse and keyboard.

Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons has a very good reason for requiring you to use a controller; it is a single player game where you control two characters. The control scheme is very simple on paper: the older brother moves with the left analog stick and interacts with the left trigger, and the younger brother moves with the right analog stick and interacts with the right trigger. In reality it is very easy to get them mixed up, especially when the older brother ends up to the right of the younger brother. Luckily any time there is a puzzle element that requires each brother to be in a particular spot, the younger brother is almost always to the left of the older brother.
The puzzles almost always involve the two brothers working together, and more often than not they utilize each of their unique skill sets. For example older brother can pull heavy levers, and younger brother can slip through narrow bars. The puzzles are usually not very difficult to figure out, and very rarely are they a test of the player's finesse. This means that from a gameplay point of view, Brothers is entirely counting on its unique core concept. Luckily it is a short game (about three hours) so the novelty does not have time to wear off.
The story is another strong point. Everyone in the game speaks a fictional language, which leaves only the character's body language and tone of voice to convey their message. The result is that you usually have a vague idea of what they are saying, but a very clear impression of the emotions they are feeling. The brothers' journey begins when their father falls ill and they have to travel to a presumably magical tree to retrieve an antidote. On the way they encounter many people and creatures both magical and mundane. A lot of time they need help of some sort, and the brothers come to their aid. Some of these are required to progress through the linear game, but others can be found just off the beaten path. It is worth noting that none of the achievements are awarded for progressing through the main story, but none of them are very difficult to get.

The writers attempted a few plot twists, but for the most part I saw them coming a long way away. There were some genuinely sweet moments, and some that took my breath away. My favorite was the hang glider flight, which was delightful. It felt like the cumulation of the wonder found in the world, and the musical crescendo was the most memorable in the game.

I encountered a couple of bugs that involved certain events not triggering properly or the enemy AI failing to react to the brothers properly. Both were solved by restarting the game. The most amusing bug was the fact that half the text in the credits was cut off my first time through. None of these were crippling issues.

Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons takes a unique idea and uses its novelty to great effect. It also does not overstay its welcome, ending before things get stale.