Review: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

[gameinfo title=”Game Info” game_name=”Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons” developers=”Starbreeze Studios” publishers=”505 Games” platforms=”360″ genres=”” release_date=”Out Now” version_played=”360″]

BrothersStoryThe most remarkable part of Brothers is how it manages to tell an emotionally driven story without using a single word of the English language. Much like 2012’s Sony Exclusive Journey, the game doesn’t use dialogue to move the plot forward, relying on the character’s interactions with each other and the world and leaves the player to interpret it how they may. It worked in Journey, and it works just as successfully in Brothers.

Brothers tells the story of two brothers who set upon a remarkable quest to save their dying father, by finding the ‘Water of Life’. The story doesn’t flinch away from some dark themes and pulls some heavy punches. Suffice to say, if you have a brother in real life you will be bawling at some points during the 3 hour experience. Brothers’ story is strong enough to warrant it’s price point, and it’s a huge boon to this generation’s last steps into the next. It’s very rare for a game to emotionally connect so strongly with such simplicity. Simply put, Brothers is this year’s Journey, and Xbox’s Journey.

As most likely 100% of other gaming sites have mentioned, Brothers is Fable, meets Journey (optionally throw Ico and Limbo in there as well). The buzz term isn’t profoundly wrong, as technically Brothers is, well, Fable and Journey mixed together. The art style is very reminiscent of Fable, and the style of storytelling, with a reliance of actions over words, is also similar to Journey. The game looks gorgeous, especially for a small XBLA game, and the art style is quite cute, for lack of a better word. I found myself laughing at some of the more nuanced moments, just simply because of how cute the characters or the world looked. Many others would find themselves giggling at the sight of one of the brothers carrying a fluffy sheep to a treadmill (it makes sense in context).

Of course the inherent charming visuals are balanced with some dark storytelling themes. Life and death, survival, horror, suicide are all big themes in Brother’s 3 hour journey, and some scenarios may shock you or cause you to shed a tear, or even contemplate life itself. Starbreeze, like in their previous game The Darkness, pull some serious punches and aims to engage you with a mature story.

Starbreeze Studios, known for their quiet successes in the gameplay field (see the aforementioned Darkness and Syndicate), sadly falter in the gameplay perspective, which in the previous examples have showcased their exemplary talent for pure fun and in Syndicate’s case, pure style.

Since Brothers opts for a unique control scheme, in which each brother is controlled by a thumbstick (the elder brother being dedicated to the left stick and trigger, and the younger brother to the right), it’s functional for the most part but it doesn’t allow for a more in depth gameplay experience.

Brothers Screen
Puzzles are quite simplistic since you’ll spend most of the game wrestling with the control scheme, and when brothers end up on opposite sides of the screen your mind will boggle as you attempt to untangle the two. For a 3-4 hour game it just doesn’t stick around long enough for you to truly get used to it, and by the time you have, it’s finished.

Some puzzles are genuinely interesting and require some actual thought, for the most part they’re quite straightforward. What’s more remarkable is the two brothers’ interactions with the world. Dozens of events happen in this world, and like the naive younger brother, the gamer would be naturally drawn to attempt to interact with other characters, animals and objects in the world. Simply sitting on a bench to admire the view is in itself breathtaking.

While the frustrating controls and straightforward puzzles don’t lend well to the experience, Brothers is simply put, a must play. The fantastic story, interactions with the world that’s teeming with life and tragic and dark themes all make this game unforgettable. Brothers hit’s hard, and like Journey, you’ll be sitting in front of the TV in awe long after the game ends.