Developers: Starbreeze Studios
Publishers: 505 Games
Plot: When their father falls ill, two brothers undertake a dangerous quest across foreign lands to find the medicine that can cure him.
I have been playing a lot of Indie games recently. This is one of the first one’s I have actually wanted to see made into a full length game.
As I begun playing this game, I began to suspect that I would not get along with the gameplay very well. You play two brothers at the same time, so the left side of your controller helps the elder brother move around, while at the same time you must operate the right side to control the younger brother. There will be several moments throughout this game, when you will lose track of who is who and end up sending the wrong brother running off into the wrong direction. Thank god, Starbreeze have the hindsight to put up an invisible barrier around any drop, otherwise I might have thrown the game away in frustration. The beginning starts off slow and as you struggle with the controls to walk around a few towns, you will wonder why you are investing time into this game. But then the slow start makes sense. By the time, you start to get to the section of the game that requires a bit more thought and reflexes, you have fully mastered these difficult controls and they never truly become a serious problem, even when the pressure gets turned up to the max.
Brothers throws a handful of brain-teasers at you. I am going to use the bridge example, because it is fairly amusing at how this universe deploys some of the most over-complicated bridge mechanisms in the history of gaming. You will come to a bridge and there will be a certain puzzle to open it. For example, one brother cannot swim, but can fit through small gaps. You need to learn what each brother can do and use that to complete the next section of the game. It sounds simple in writing, and it is hardly the kind of puzzle that will have you scratching your head for hours, but it is just puzzling enough to be enjoyable. It adds a bit more thought to the proceedings and seeing as the action is fairly minimal, I think the puzzle sections of the game are definitely welcome.
Brothers is also a very beautiful game and my favourite thing about playing was just spending time in this fascinating universe. The art style is clearly inspired by Fable, visually showing off the fairy tale world of the Fantasy landscape, while at the same time, embracing the darker elements of the story. One of the main reasons that I want this game to be a full-length game, or at least get an encore with a sequel, is that we only ever get a glimpse at the beautiful landscape. Every section does feel a bit rushed and, while it does create this fast-paced, exciting gameplay, you cannot help but wish that you spent more time learning about the Giants or what exactly those killer whale creatures were. I could have spent so much longer in this game.
Another assumption you make when the game starts is that this is a kids game. It is about two young brothers, the sense of danger feels more like a narrative device than a genuine sense of danger and they talk in a made-up language, like a Sims game (it is a Swedish game, so I guess that this helps keep it international and on our radar). However, this game does get dark. There isn’t even a moment where it suddenly just snaps and gets more mature on you, it just slowly corrupts the childish nature of the game (I guess it ties in with the coming of age theme). One point you are happily playing bunnies and saving cheerful giants and then you save a distraught father from hanging himself. Then animals start dying around you. Before long, you are making your way through a battlefield littered with dead corpses and breaking up blood rituals. I loved this sleight of hand and the false childishness really helps this game stick with you long after you played it.
Sadly, this game seems to be celebrated for the emotional plot. Yes, it does have a sad ending, but it is hardly a break-through story-telling device (not even with video games, which are often behind when it comes to a good story). I think that the false language gets in the way and while you are mildly upset at the events, you never feel connected with the characters and then when the sadness kicks in, you aren’t particularly feeling empathetic. Like watching an animal get killed in a documentary. You are upset, but it is a distant kind of sadness, which isn’t really that powerful. Or perhaps, the thing that killed the sad moment is that it is clear that the game is trying too hard. Indie games do that a lot. When it had so much going for it beforehand, it seems a bizarre thing to try and get remembered for.
Final Verdict: A breath-taking Fantasy world with some original gameplay. Well worth the few hours spent in this gaming universe.