Developer(s) – Starbreeze Studios
Publisher(s) – 505 Games & Spike Chunsoft
Director – Josef Fares
PEGI – 16
The brainchild of Dutch film director Josef Fares, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was an indie game released in August of 2013, and won the VGA award for Best Xbox Game of 2013, ahead of the likes of BioShock Infinite and Grand Theft Auto V. I decided to check it out, and though I can point a few things out about, I was left fairly impressed by it.
Graphics – 9/10
Whilst the visuals are somewhat outdated from a technical standpoint, the conceptual design that has been implemented is nothing short of sensational. The game takes place in a surprisingly wide variety of different environments in such a short space of time, adding to the game’s overall mystique and level of diversity. But what I particularly like about this game is the way that it has been marketed. Like many Nintendo games, this has been made to look like a cutesy, innocent little puzzle game on the surface, but as players continue to progress, they will find out quick enough that it also has a prominent dark side to it; so much so that I actually suggested this to Mullet Mike as a topic for an episode of Creepy Gaming. One minute the player is traveling through a farm to avoid a dog, and the next minute; they’re traveling through a valley of dead giants, having to desecrate their corpses to advance. It surprises me greatly that this game was actually also nominated for Best Family Game at the 2014 BAFTA Video Games Awards.
Gameplay – 7/10
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a puzzle adventure game, and the two genres go hand in hand particularly well in this title. What I would say about it is that though the puzzles seem pretty elaborate at first glance, I found that most of them are easy enough to figure out on the first attempt, and in that respect, provided only a moderate challenge. To me, the best thing about how the game plays out is how both brother’s personalities are represented through gameplay, and by the same token, is used to tell the story as well as expressing a number of themes, such as of course, brotherhood, love, and co-operation.
Controls – 10/10
The game’s controls scheme can seem a little bit confusing at first, but it’s ultimately easy enough to get to grips with, and from thereon, no problems should be encountered. Like the gameplay, the control scheme also works to convey the theme of co-operation, as both brothers rely on one another in order to advance. For example, the little brother relies on the big brother for strength to carry him across rivers due to his fear of swimming, and vice versa, the big brother relies on the little brother to squeeze through gaps in fences in order to find a way for him to also progress further along with the little brother.
Lifespan – 2/10
Disappointingly, the game can only last about 3 hours in its entirety. If that. And in my opinion, for all the substance, variety, and artistic value that this game has, that is nowhere near good enough. It feels like too fleeting an experience for how much substance there is. I would liken this game to a gourmet meal; beautifully presented and exceptionally refined, but lacking in portions.
Storyline – 9/10
The Story of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons follows the story of two brothers named Naiee and Nyaa, who resolve to travel to the Tree of Life and collect its waters in order to heal their ailing father. The game’s story is extremely deep, emotional, and takes so many twists and turns before the end that makes for an experience nothing short of unforgettable. Not only can it be described as unforgettable because of everything that happens throughout the course of the game, but because of how many different transitions the game’s atmosphere goes through, and the fact that the game itself makes player care about the two brothers, and the hardships that they have to endure in order to reach their goal.
Originality – 8/10
Games have come and gone before with elaborate puzzles and an ever-changing atmosphere, but few games have come along that have told certain aspects through actual gameplay in the manner in which this game does so. Though morality mechanics have been used in other games, like Fable and InFamous, the way in which it happens in this title is particularly subtle somehow.
To summarize, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an exceptionally unique and presentable experience. Whilst the game’s fleeting lifespan doesn’t do it justice in my opinion, it will certainly make for an emotional and fun 3 hours.