Brothers a Tale of two Sons
- - Innovative controls that manage to be central to the story
- - So very pretty
- - So very brief
- - Where the hell do you think you're going? Controls are sometimes a challenge, though well mitigated by the design.
This fact alone had many people confused in the run-up to its release, with questions being asked over whether it would be playable over the internet, and though you could arguably play with a friend on the same controller (if you were happy to get cozy enough) that, Starbreeze calmly informed us, would be missing the point.
Brothers charges you with two wards, the titular brothers, and places one under each hand– elder brother on the left stick and trigger, and younger on the right. You will guide both on a quest to find the tree of life and return with a cure for their ailing father as you control the two simultaneously, working together (by yourself) to make your way to your goal through puzzle solving and co-operative actions.
While the control scheme might sound confusing, and can lead to moments of the brothers running in entirely the opposite directions to the way you want them, it’s rarely frustrating and the challenge is quite rewarding. By making sure they are normally on the same side as that from which they are controlled, you avoid much of the confusion that would be inherent. However, while it is forgiving in the way it deploys its controls, don’t expect a complete walkover, as several sections will still prove particularly challenging.
It’s brief, short enough that each gameplay section has no time to outstay its welcome, though at the same time, it can sometimes feel like each vignette has little time to settle before the game whisks you on to the next one. With that said, its brevity keeps the experience tight and fresh and avoids much of the fatigue that could have set in, both from a gameplay point of view and from the visual standpoint.
The game is very good looking, walking that fine line between style and realism in a way that lends itself immediately to the story. From the seaside village that is your startpoint through mountain ranges and shadowy forests, the game keeps a tight rein on what it shows so that, when it chooses to, it can shock you with a view or vista. Again, you are never far from one of these moments, from an event or oddity that piques your curiosity.
What’s perhaps most surprising is the level to which you can grow attached to the two, so full and rich is the characterisation of the pair. With an absence of understandable dialogue, the subtleties of the animation play a key part in forming a tangible bond between the brothers. The elder brother is haughty and confident, bravado in a blue tunic. The younger is energetic and cheeky, his mischief covering his hurt at the loss of his mother. Like a great animation or silent film, you quickly forget the lack of speech and focus instead on what you can glean for yourself.
Brothers sets itself up as a modern fairy tale, and delivers on this, giving the player a well realised, fantastical world to pin as the backdrop to an interesting game that keeps its story close to its game mechanics.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was purchased from Steam and played on a PC with an Xbox 360 controller. It also supports keyboard play, though I can’t recommend it.