Games are a big deal, at least to some, you’ll know this being one of the people willing to spend their time reading the opinions and words thrown out there by ‘writers’ such as myself. Due to the big deal that games have become, often the industry can be marred with average titles or titles which simply just do nothing to back up the idea of the medium as art. Every now and then however, a game comes out which may seem basic but is honest, full of creativity, beauty and simply fantastic. When you think of these games many would think of Limbo, Braid or even Bastion.
Starbreeze studios have taken a chance, breaking away from their FPS roots and created what could easily be one of this year’s best ‘indie’ platformers, which is not only stunning to look at, it’s a beautiful yet sad story.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, reminiscent of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale in many respects, is a story about two brothers who after seeing their weakening father cling to his very life, set out on a journey to find the ‘water of life’ and while this simple story will try to throw you through an emotional loop, it hides a cleverly designed game.
Gameplay is kept simple, brought down to its bare bones which helps to better immerse you into the fairy tale world Starbreeze have created, making every action and natural reaction without the need to quickly gaze down at the control pad just to make sure you made the right move. The left analogue stick controls the eldest of the two brothers, while the right controls the youngest with the triggers used as corresponding action buttons likewise. That’s it, nothing more, nothing less.
As you progress you’ll find yourself hit with puzzles to solve, all of which are a play on the simple control scheme, this never becomes boring though as opposed to feeling restricted or limited, instead the lack of over complication gives you enough room to breathe and learn more about each brother as an individual. Learning how best to use each brother’s strengths and weaknesses is one of the biggest hurdles you’ll face, but is an extremely rewarding ask as each puzzle quickly becomes more and more complex until you’ll eventually be tackling some ingenious yet fiendishly difficult platforming sections and brain melting puzzles.
At times you’ll hit the lows and feel like you’re being pulled in multiple directions as controlling each brother isn’t always as simple as it seems, but if you start off slow, you’ll reach the highs of feeling totally in synch with the adventuring duo.
The world of Brothers is simply beautiful, showing a huge amount of loving labour poured in from the team at Starbreeze, and this doesn’t stop at enigmatic visuals as the game’s soundtrack is a great example of how soundscapes can be a key step into really adding another layer to the overall experience. Brothers is however a fairly short adventure, taking you roughly four hours to reach the climax of its tale.
It isn’t all about clocking in the hours, grabbing random collectables and forced interactions, it’s about story telling in a natural and organic fashion. Cutscenes are extremely few and far between and dialogue is essentially non-existent (apart from an unknown dialect) as Brothers uses visual clues and scenery to move the story forward which much like other popular ‘Art Games’ such as journey, allow the world to come alive. However, the short time span in which the adventure folds out does mean certain shock moments and plot developments aren’t quite as fully developed as they could have been. Starbreeze were never why with the fact that this was intended to be a short story, which allowed them to take some big risks, but if only they’d been able to grab the bull by the horns and flesh Brothers out into a full-blown game then they may have been onto a Journey-killer in my mind.
So overall how does it stack up?
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a beautiful, heartfelt story, told through the medium of a simple, yet elegant game, full of puzzles and exploration. Blending gorgeous visuals, which would be familiar to fans of the fable series, with an amazing soundtrack, everything about Brothers just works.
You won’t be spoon-fed a nonsense story, you’ll be engrossed in the world Starbreeze have built, eager to push on through the difficult times and while the games short time frame can leave you feeling a little disappointed, you’ll be hit with some rather powerful emotional moments which is extremely commendable.
Definitely give this one a go!