Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – The PS3 Attitude Review
Created in collaboration between Swedish developer Starbreeze Studios and film-maker Josef Fares, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a story-driven top-down adventure game, which was released on PSN earlier this month. Back in March, DolphGB came away from his preview session positively raving about the game, but does it remain as engaging throughout the entire quest?
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a very unusual videogame, for two main reasons. The first and most obvious of these is that, throughout the whole game, you play as two characters simultaneously; these are the brothers from the game’s title, as you’ve no doubt already worked out by now.
The other unusual thing is that there are no guns, no grenades, no swords, no bows, nor any other weapons of any kind. Instead of focusing on all-out action, Brothers tells a more reflective, slow-paced tale, and makes use of themes such as family, friendship, love and loss. It’s a story about two sons on an adventure to find a cure for their sick father, not about shooting people in the face.
However, we urge you to not confuse ‘slow-paced’ with ‘boring’, because Brothers is positively crammed with moments of sheer wonder and delight. The game is set in a fairy-tale world where fantastical creatures dwell (some of which are kind, while others aren’t quite so much), and the whole experience is infused with a truly magical quality.
But how exactly does controlling two characters at a time work on a practical level? The answer is quite intuitive, but also takes some getting used to. Simply put, the left stick controls the older brother, and the right stick controls the younger brother, with L2 and R2 used to interact with objects as older brother and younger brother respectively.
As it’s a top-down game, the camera usually takes care of itself, but you can control it directly with L1 and R1 too. We say the camera usually takes care of itself, because it can occasionally turn in the completely opposite direction to the one you want, so it’s good that you have the option to manually override it if you so desire.
Although the game gives you full control over both brothers, the gameplay is actually quite similar to that of a point-and-click adventure title, in that you’ll be interacting with various seemingly random objects, machines and even animals as you proceed through the game.
Brothers is unfalteringly linear, but it also encourages exploration, because most of the objects in the game can be utilised or changed in some way. The two brothers often have wildly different reactions to each item, so it’s usually worth trying things out with each of them.
For example, big brother reveals himself as a keen gardener when he takes the time to smell a flower; interact with the same plant as little brother, however, and he merely shrugs his shoulders as if he couldn’t care less. It’s amazing how much of the brothers’ personalities are revealed through simple animations such as this.
Plus, if you’re lucky you might just stumble upon the glorious ping of a PSN trophy as you wander around. None of them are story-related, so it’s possible to finish the game with only one or two (if that) of its 12 trophies. Most of them have cryptic descriptions such as ‘You made someone feel better’ and ‘You found a secret’, so it genuinely pays to explore.
The puzzles (while often very clever) aren’t particularly challenging, but that isn’t really the point of the game. The way you interact with the world and its inhabitants is of far more importance than the difficulty (or lack thereof) of the gameplay.
Characters speak in a fictional language with no subtitles, so it’s up to the player to infer what they are saying through their intonation, actions and the responses of others. This might have been a problem, but the animations are so brilliantly designed that you don’t need to know exactly what they’re saying to be able to understand their intention. It also adds to the fairy-tale nature of the game beautifully, as if a children’s story book has come to life.
Brothers is a very pretty game overall, but it doesn’t have a particularly large draw-distance, so pop-in occurs relatively frequently. Likewise, the world is well-detailed and colourful, but character models and certain textures look slightly disappointing when viewed close up.
Environments are surprisingly varied, and full of charming little touches that enhance the experience significantly. As a lot of the game’s fun stems from visiting these locations along with the two brothers, we won’t be spoiling anything here. To that end, all of the screenshots included in this review are taken from only the prologue and first full chapter of the game.
If you like the sound of what you’ve just read, you should definitely think about giving Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons a download. It feels like we’ve said this about lots of games recently (probably because we have), but it really is a title that you have to experience for yourself in order to appreciate. It’s certainly not for everyone, but if you fancy taking a break from the incessant anarchy of GTAV, then Brothers just might be the breath of fresh air you’re looking for.