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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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By acharris7717-09-2013
Bis18marck70 (editor)
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

The Defence

Developer:
Starbreeze
Publisher:
505 Games
Genre:
Adventure, Indie
Release Date:
03-09-2013

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel i3 2.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD Radeon HD 2600
RAM:
2 GB
HDD:
2 GB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a downloadable single player co-op game from visionary Swedish film director - Josef Fares. The game received some favourable reviews when it was released about a month ago on Xbox live. Since then, PC gamers have been waiting patiently for Brothers to arrive, so that they can experience the journey for themselves. So without further ado let us see if the game lives up to expectations.

The Trial

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an epic journey of two brothers. To save their father, the two siblings are sent upon a quest to obtain water from the tree of life by the village shaman. To accomplish this, the brothers need to work together in order to complete various puzzles along their journey. With many obstructions on their path, the brothers go through a lot, and you cannot help but find a personal attachment to the duo and feel the need for their quest.

You shall not pass.

You shall not pass.

The story of Brothers is well written and, although the game is about the rather dark topic of death, it is handled delicately and meaningfully in clever ways. Clearly a lot of thought has been put into the story and into the narrative itself. Whether through helping the characters you meet on the journey or through the choices that the brothers must make along the way, the game beautifully describes and captures the emotions portrayed within itself. It is all told in an amazing, philosophical nature which adds to the overall atmosphere of the game.

Controlling the two brothers is at first a strange experience. The developers devised a simple, yet intuitive method of using just the two thumbsticks and, as action buttons, the left and right trigger buttons of your controller. Moving the brothers is done by using the thumbsticks, being that the left thumbstick controls the older and the right thumbstick controls the younger brother. The same applies to the action buttons with the left button controlling the older and the left the younger brother.

When moving both the brothers at the same time using both thumbsticks, it can get a little bit tricky as, per status quo, the right thumbstick is normally used for moving camera angles and not for controlling a character. At first, whenever I attempted to move the camera around I would inadvertently move the younger brother instead.

Yeee haaaw.

Yeee haaaw.

Completing the puzzles does require a little thought, though most of the puzzles are relatively simple to work out and you probably will not spend too much time on them. Indeed, I found it to be a rare occasion if I had to experiment and devise a plan for more than five minutes. Though the puzzles vary in the game, they all require both brothers to be solved, which both emphasises the need to incorporate both into your game as well as nicely adding to the personal nature of their quest. For example, faced with a high platform and a broken ladder, the older brother boosts his younger sibling up, then climb the rope his brother threw down. While a rather simple example, the puzzles within the game are very cleverly designed on how they make use of both brothers before a completion is possible.

The visuals in the game are rendered very well and they add atmosphere to the title, giving it a dark feeling which captures the essence of the game perfectly. The subtle use of colours and shades, along with the amazing lighting really makes this a beautiful game without the use of fancy 3D graphics which require a top end PC to run the game. The visuals will be one of the elements which will have an immediate impact upon the player when the game is played for the first time.

Starbreeze have opted to go with a ‘The Sims’ style speech system; all the characters talk, but they do not speak an actual language. Instead, they make up peculiar sounds and mumbles which ultimately becomes an enjoyable form of communication even though their actual speech is incomprehensible. It works well since, considering no actual words are spoken, the story of the game is understandable all the way through. This is down to the fact that the story is told more through actions and events which, all credit to Starbreeze, manages to pull off nicely.

Come fly with me.

Come fly with me.

The personalities which have been given to the brothers are just right. Along their quest, the younger brother, playful and cheery as any young boy, is kept in check by his older sibling, who guides and protects the lad. It is one of these small things with which Brothers bridges the gap from a game to a tangible and understandable real life situation and draws you into its own little universe even further.

Music wise there is not much as the atmosphere is set more by the ambient noises around the environment, like waterfalls, animals, and people talking...well, grumbling. Atmospheric music is used during scenes of importance which works really well to give a truly engrossing gameplay experience.

The Verdict

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a different type of game, which makes for a refreshing change. Brothers has a storyline which, as the game progresses, becomes very emotional. With many different challenges that obstruct the brothers, some ending well and some not, the game is given its unique charm. Brothers is a sad game given that it is about death, but it balances this with a blend of happy and sad bits throughout. All in all, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons could be a surprise game of the year contender within the indie community.

Case Review

  • A Brothers Love: An emotional story of two brothers on a mission to save their father.
  • Let’s Work Together: Very intuitive use of the controller to allow single player co-op.
  • Sensory Overload: Visually pleasant and atmospheric audio within the game.
  • Short but Sweet: The game is a bit short with only around 2 - 3 hours gameplay.
  • Out of Control: The controls can be tricky when controlling the brothers.
  • Crash and Burn: Game crashes randomly and at annoying parts.
4
Score: 4/5
Brothers is an inspiring tale of two brothers and the love for their father which makes for a truly enjoyable game.

Appeal

I’m not going to beat around the bush about this - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a game that is worthy of every cent the developers are charging for it. It is a game that deserves your full attention, it is a game that makes you want to interrupt a very important sounding conversation going on between two complete strangers and urge them to go home and play it. If the game interests you even the slightest bit you need to play it now, I cannot stress that enough.

Mechanically, I suppose it isn’t too naive to call Brothers a puzzle game, or more specifically a single player co-op puzzler, with the duality of your controller representing the eponymous brothers. The game’s control design often made me wonder how the designers came up with the idea, and more than once made me reflect on how it took this long for a developer to figure out something like this. Especially given how long the design for the modern analogue-stick controller has existed. It’s an ingenious idea, not just in terms of the game’s mechanics but also its narrative design. I doubt any other game will ever make me as emotionally attached to the analogue-sticks on my gamepad as Brothers has.

If you’re reading this review, chances are that you at least have the slightest sliver of interest in this game, if you do - get it. Don’t watch videos, don’t read any overly descriptive reviews/previews or what have you, just hit Steam, buy it, isolate about three-to-four hours of your life from anything you consider a hindrance or distraction, and play it. For now, I can sincerely say that Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons sits proudly on a mantle alongside games such as Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Shadow of the Colossus and Psychonauts - games that I am truly grateful for having been made a reality.

5
Score: 5/5

Appeal

Another day, another stream of consciousness from yours truly about games, as an art form, not only attaining, but gloriously surpassing that threshold of true artistry. Let's cut to the chase then shall we? Brothers is an entity all unto itself. Whilst not the most visually impressive game from a technical standpoint, the development team embraced the world they were working with. Crafting the overall aesthetic around the tools they had available to them, to produce something beautiful to behold. A painting in motion, if ever the phrase could be applied to anything.

But it extends so much further than merely the visual aesthetic. With the entire population of the Brothers' world speaking in some odd, vaguely Eastern European, gobbledegook language, it put me in mind of several things all at once. You see, it is not who we are underneath, rather the things we do, which define us. And here, it is what the brothers do, it is the world they interact with, which drives the narrative, not something as crude or imprecise as words and emotion.

It also screams Team Ico. Two characters, holding and climbing as the primary play mechanics...yeah, Team Ico alright. Speaking of which, despite what you may have been told, despite what even the game itself will try to tell you, it is entirely playable with the keyboard. It works extremely well in fact. It is clearly made with a controller, specifically dual analogue sticks, in mind. But they are most decidedly not a requirement. One can only wonder, was it insecurity on the part of 505 which compelled them to warn about controller requirement, or did they simply 'forget' to remove the advisory as just one more thing the player would needs find out for themselves?

5
Score: 5/5
Comments (5)
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Posts: 1507

At least from the screens it looks much better than I expected.

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Posts: 2786

@Fr33Lanc3r: Do it dude. Do it!

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Posts: 181

I must have this....from your descriptions it looks to be something quick I could write a Search For Meaning about...

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Posts: 124

I wanted to smack that bridge-troll dick right in the kisser....repeatedly...until his face came off.

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Posts: 2786

All I can say is...

Urgh.

Haven't I recorded enough let's Plays already?