Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: Out Now
Players/Online features: Single player
Starbreeze, best known as first person shooter specialists for games such as The Chronicles of Riddick games, The Darkness, Syndicate and Payday 1 & 2 have really gone out on a limb here, and I must say I think it’s paid off.
After losing their mother in the first few moments of the game, Brothers tells the story of two brothers’ search to find a cure for their father’s illness. Brothers is set in a enchanted land with a storybook feel, mythical creatures and has more than a few dark moments, a common feature of many classic fairytales.
Although it’s not really much like any of them, Brothers put me in mind of Ico, Limbo, Fable and Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom, more because of the atmosphere than looks or gameplay. It’s in keeping with the setting and the game style that the boys and everyone else in the game speak in some sort of foreign language, it sounds like a mixture of Russian, Bulgarian and Finnish – let’s call it “Rubbish.” The brothers—their names sound like “Nayi” (little brother) & “Noya” (the elder) call to each other if you let them stray too far apart and can regularly interact and converse with the locals, not that you’ll know what is said, but the main drift is always “which way should we go?”...
Featuring what I believe is a unique control scheme in a 3D game, each joypad stick controls a character individually (Nayi on the right and Noya on the left stick) and each trigger makes them interact with various objects in a number of ways depending on the context and situation. This opens up a number of possible gameplay styles from simple platforming and climbing to stealth, herding, collecting and luring. The beautiful simplicity of the controls gave the designers the opportunity to set the player some interesting puzzles, and they came up with some clever ideas without ever descending into head scratching puzzlemania. The most challenging aspect of the game for me was getting my brain to sync with my hands and control the Brothers at the same time. At times it feels a bit like trying to pat your head with one hand and rub your tummy with the other, and often synchronicity is absolutely vital to progress. Other times you’ll have to perform one action with one brother to aid the other, it’s basically a same-screen co-op game with only yourself to blame if “the wheels fall off.” Climbing and shimmying along ledges requires you to hold the triggers in to maintain the brother’s grip, but this is really the only testing part of controlling the game, and a gentle difficulty curve makes it perfect entry level gaming for kiddies and ham-fisted n00bs alike.
Brothers looks like a story book illustration come to life, and has a crisp, clean yet dreamy and pleasant atmosphere like few other games. The villagers and other creatures you come across are full of character, none more so than an ugly yet charming gentle giant who is sad and having a really bad day. He helps you on your way, lifting or hurling you to inaccessible places or letting you use him as a bridge. In one of my favourite parts of the game you get a chance to repay him for his kindness. Events during the story and the incidental animations and reactions that the Brothers have to people and other creatures will often touch you at an emotional level, it’s a thing attempted by many games but successfully achieved by only a few.
An excellent story set in a land populated by giants, pygmies and mythical creatures, and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons doesn’t shy away from tragedy, violence and even gore, and this may be a factor if you’re thinking of buying for or to play with the kids, but I don’t think there’s anything in here that’ll give them nightmares, and certainly nothing as disturbing as some of the “classic” fairytales most of us were all told as kids. A download-only title, also available shortly on Steam for PC and PS3 Brothers will surely be one of the year’s more memorable games, but sadly, even considering the price of only 1200 MSP (£9.99/$14.99) it’s all over rather quickly (4 hours-ish), and has an ending that won’t go down to well with most gamers, I certainly wasn’t happy with it.
- Enchanting to look at. - A truly endearing game. - Simple and addictive to play. - Some clever puzzles along the way.