Sibling Revelry: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons game review
Game: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Platform: Steam (PC), XBLA, PSN
Release Date: Aug. 3, 2013 (XBLA), Sept. 7, 2013 (Steam, PSN)
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Publisher: 505 Games
Remember back in grade school when you and your friends would try to pat your head with one hand while simultaneously using the other to rub your stomach in a circular motion? Who knew that you would someday use that skill?
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a downloadable single-player adventure game in which players control two brothers on a single controller. Though the game may seem most suitable for a cooperative experience, Starbreeze Studios made a bold, innovative choice to allow you to control both characters. The control scheme is simple: using the left stick and trigger, you control the older brother, and you use the right stick and trigger to control the younger one.
Brothers is set in the Middle Ages and follows the story of two brothers who must journey to find a specific cure for their father, who has become deathly ill.
By moving each brother with his respective analog stick, you traverse the environments, solving puzzles by using each character's particular strengths. The control scheme isn't perfect, but it is functional. Just like patting your head and rubbing your stomach simultaneously, you get into a rhythm of controlling the characters, but once in a while you find your brain mixing up the two and they both end up running into walls on opposite ends of the screen.
The scheme does, however, have its unintended perks. When you realize that you're mixing up the controls, like watching the wrong screen in Mario Kart, it forces you to slow down and regain your composure - giving you a second to survey the gorgeous environments that Starbreeze Studios created.
The environments are diverse, detailed and stunning. The developer has even placed benches at lookout points; if you press the interaction buttons, the triggers, for both characters, you sit down and the camera pans across the scenic landscape. While the landscapes are gorgeous, the character models are not. Luckily enough, you rarely get close enough to see their bland complexions with the exception of a few cutscenes.
Character development is optional in Brothers. The characters in this world don't speak English, yet through enough exploration, you find that each sibling exudes personality. The brothers will interact with non-playable characters differently by pressing their respective trigger. Through body language and action, you begin to understand who each of them are as a person. This is when Brothers is its most rewarding.
Solving puzzles is also very satisfying. As with most games, Brothers' puzzles build on conventions you were taught by solving the last puzzle. Mechanics never overstay their welcome, so the puzzles are always fresh and challenging, but never too complicated.
Brothers deals with some very dark themes like suicide, human sacrifice, war and death, but it is a fable to the video game medium. Though short in length, the narrative is powerful and teaches you a lesson: adversity can be overcome through love and willpower.
Though the game isn't perfect, suffering from the quirky control scheme and poorly modeled characters, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an innovative game that contains an impactful story - it's an experience you won't want to miss.