Growing up, I never got along with my brother. Even now, as adults, we hardly ever connect. In a way, our personalities are just not compatible. So every time I see any sort of sibling interaction in any medium or even in person, meeting someone, I always get a tinge of envy. Mostly because I’ve tried so hard to understand, appreciate and love my brother over the years, quirks and all – as bad as that can get, dealing with that part of my life.
Then comes along Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which deals expertly with this exact subject: brothers getting along and a life threatening goal they must reach. In Brother’s case, their ultimate goal is to heal their sick father somehow, on the heels of losing their mother after a tragic accident.
Brothers puts you in control of both siblings on their quest to find the magical medicine, all the while solving puzzles and going through gorgeous set pieces, from a lush forest to snowy, slippery hills. All in all, Brothers is an amazing game that sets aside conventional videogame tropes for the benefit of delivering a truly touching story.
Not a single word anyone will understand is uttered throughout the game. All emotions are delivered through the brothers’ gestures and expressions and are done so in ridiculously simple yet touching ways. The art style for Brothers carries a fairy tale quality to it and although not as exaggerated in its design as the Fable, it uses elegantly simple character visuals that are very expressively animated.
The gameplay puzzles are easy enough to figure out that situations never get in the way of just absorbing the wonderful world that Starbreeze has put together. At one point in the game, for instance, both brothers are bound by a certain length of rope and must swing from one point to the other. For certain games, a section like that might turn to a frustrating mess, but Brothers nails it, thanks to its laid back approach to timing and the surprisingly easy way its control scheme is to grasp.
Even though Brothers makes use of a control scheme that’s very similar to recently reviewed Ibb & Obb, using the two analog sticks to control the two brothers independently, it rarely turns complicated or confusing. Triggers are just about the only other input, used for interaction in context sensitive areas. For instance, by approaching a tall ledge at the beginning of the game, the older boy boosts his brother up.
There are only a few points in the game where a mistake leads to a game over screen, but thanks to lenient checkpointing, you are never brought back too far from the spot you messed up at. The few and far sections of Brothers that involve any sort of violence are done particularly well and to tremendous effect, helping deliver the story in a believable way, instead of being crammed in just for “being a videogame” sake.
Certain games play different roles from person to person. For me, Brothers rang in perfectly and felt in tune to how feelings should be portrayed in games. It gets lighthearted when it needs to, and serious when you least expect it, delivering an exciting experience. As a story, it does so in a mature tone that many games fail to capture, no matter how badly they try and fail.
Touted as one of the last great additions to the Xbox 360 library at Microsoft’s press conference at this year’s E3, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons certainly delivers. It’s by leaps and bounds one of the best downloadable games available for just about any of the current consoles, making use of just about every drop of what the current generation has to offer. And if you haven’t an Xbox 360 to enjoy Brothers, good news – it’s coming to PlayStation 3 and PC soon.
While not the longest running game you’re bound to run across, it doesn’t try to overstay its welcome. Like a good book or deep movie, by the time you are done with Brothers, you’ll have plenty to ponder about and cherish.