Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons snuck up on my heart and absolutely captivated me. While other games try to capture a movie-like essence, developer Starbreeze has built something with the complexity of a best-selling novel, played out with the simplicity of a Hemingway poem. Built to challenge your mind, can two entities work simultaneously to become one?
Released: 2/21/ 13
Platforms: XBLA (reviewed), PC, PS3
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Rating: Rated T
Price: $15 (1200 MSP)
In order to rescue their father, who has become stricken with some unknown illness, two brothers must embark on an epic journey together. Brothers is a co-op a game, but it’s not. You’re in a co-op game with yourself, which admittedly sounds strange, but Starbreeze has made it work in this title. Your brain must split into two parts; one must focus on the left side (the older brother) and the other must focus on the right side (the younger brother). As a result, you really have to cooperate with yourself by having each side of your brain work in tandem with the other, which it normally does, but this game makes it so much more difficult due to the muscle memory that you’ve attained from all those years of playing as one person. That’s where Brothers’ appeal sets in. Admittedly, the first 15 minutes or so felt a little slow, but I think it’s because my brain and fingers were struggling with this new mechanic.
“Brothers truly excels with utilizing this universal gamer handicap”
I find that to be ingenious. If you were to make it a more traditional game, with control over only one brother, the gameplay would be boring and way too easy, but Brothers truly excels with utilizing this universal gamer handicap, if you will. As the game progresses you become more comfortable with the controls, the game becomes more challenging, engaging, and enjoyable. Starbreeze doesn’t hit you with the same gameplay twice and that is definitely rare in games today. Before a task or form of gameplay becomes mundane, it’s switched up and keeps gameplay fresh and new.
This gameplay and control scheme help to facilitate what is one of the most exceptionally well-told storylines in a game I’ve ever played, and that’s saying a lot, because there’s not a lot to be said in the game. Reminiscent of Journey, there is no dialogue in Brothers, only gestures and the occasional vocal cues that aren’t understandable. However, there is so much emotion and characterization communicated through gameplay. For example, you discover that the younger brother can’t swim as he clings so tightly to his older brother during parts of their exploration that involve swimming. However, the older brother thinks nothing of swimming with the dead weight of his younger brother. There is a great deal of love between the two brothers that is showcased through the gameplay and that’s really endearing to see. Furthermore, you’re rewarded with an even greater understanding of the two brothers by taking your time in the game and exploring; discovering more through various interactions.
“These landscapes are just so breathtaking and provide temporary solace from a very trying and emotional journey.”
All of this takes place in an incredibly stunning landscape of what reminds me of a hybrid between Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Fable‘s Albion. As far as XBLA games go, Brothers certainly raises the bar in terms of graphics. The world of Brothers expands as you progress and turns into this picturesque journey across all facets of geography. There are certain places where you can sit on a bench and admire the scenery and you do just that: admire it. These landscapes are just so breathtaking and provide temporary solace from a very trying and emotional journey.
With so much done right, the game is still not without flaws. There are certain camera angle issues along with a few control problems. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is on the short side as well, you’ll likely get through it in about three to four hours. However, Starbreeze has jammed so much into those few hours that it feels like more. The issue is that there really isn’t much replay value once you’ve explored the game.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons speaks volumes for what games are capable of doing in terms of storytelling and gameplay. It is seldom that a game can move me to tears without a single word ever being spoken. With only a few hiccups and short term replay value, Brothers is a game that is absolutely worth playing, but more importantly worth experiencing.