Judging by the cover on the box you would assume Brave: A Warrior’s Tale was just another shovelware title forced down the throats of unsuspecting patrons of Nintendo’s popular hardware. Once you get the package ripped off and dive into the game you will quickly discover that Brave deserves merit for what it is trying to do, which is be a Zelda for extremely young children, but it also fails to deliver on some key areas. The adventure is short, repetitive and chock full of platforming problems, but it still manages to deliver some unique experiences from time to time. If you are looking for a starting platformer for someone under the age of five, then Brave may be just what you need to get your kids into gaming.
The story starts off in a tutorial that really doesn’t involve the main character. This was an interesting concept as it had me confused as to which character the game would really be about. It even lets you choose between a boy and a girl, I am guessing so that whoever is playing the game feels engulfed in the experience. Once you complete the tutorial the real game begins as your grandfather sits you down to tell the tale of Brave, a warrior who had to conquer the evil Wendigo and save his people. The personalization of relating the storytelling really drives home the idea that the game is aimed at a very young audience, and it is one of the things I applaud them on.
Controlling your character will feel familiar to anyone who has played a platformer before, but as I mentioned earlier if you are a veteran gamer, this is not a title for you. You control movement with the nunchuk analog stick, and use the face buttons to attack; that is about it. The controls are fairly simple, and easy to pick up and play. The biggest problem comes from learning the various magic moves you learn throughout the game. These sometimes require you to press specific buttons and directions to activate them. If you miss the explanation, it can be a pain to figure it out. It is pretty cool that each cave painting you uncover will give you access to new moves, but missing the description could cause frustration.
What makes this game so simple is its linearity. You will never get lost on a level unless you somehow get turned around. Every single thing you need to do is always right in front of you, and if you get stumped somehow, you can tap a button for a quick hint. The problems begin to arise when you realize that you are repeating the same actions over and over again throughout the entire journey. What makes this even more mind-boggling is that the game is so short, and yet still feels the need to recycle activities over and over. Thankfully the game mixes up activities, and kids only interested in what is onscreen will enjoy the various actions, but if you have a grasp on gaming in general, you will realize they are all the same thing, with just a different coat of paint.
The combat in the game is as simple as everything else, but it works. Early on you will find yourself using tree branches and roots to attack enemies, and eventually lighting them on fire for more effective takedowns. Later on you will be using traditional weapons such as throwing axes and the quintessential bow and arrow. The combat mechanics work well enough to not be frustrating, but attempting to achieve any sort of accuracy is a lost cause. Flailing around the melee weapons and finding a nice spot to toss projectiles should be your main focus.
No matter how much you try you cannot help but feel like Brave is stuck in the wrong era. Everything about it feels like it belongs in the PSOne/N64 lifecycle, and that really holds it back. There are a lot of things fundamentally right with the game, and one some levels it really can be enjoyable, but at other times you can’t help but feel like this game was locked up in a cellar somewhere and suddenly unearthed, slapped onto a DVD, and pushed out the door to see what happens. This particular palette is not often used, which makes it disappointing that so much potential is being wasted here.
This also spills into the visuals, and creates muddy textures and tons of other problems that would have been commonplace ten years ago. I do like the character designs and the level layouts are really well done, but the overall polish is just an eyesore. The camera will fight you and get stuck behind walls, frame rates drop left and right, and watching areas of the level disappear and tear at random intervals really drags you out of the experience. I wasn’t expecting much for a budget-priced title, but even by today’s standards, even on the Wii, this game does not look good at all.
Brave: A Warrior’s Tale has a lot riding against it, and if you are a regular gamer looking for some platform action, there are many other avenues to take. However, if you are in the market for a simple game to get your kids into gaming, this would be one of the best stepping stones for the price. It borders on almost too easy at times and the adventure is short, but it will deliver the fundamentals of the past time as well as moments of brilliance thanks to the diverse mechanics. Unfortunately for this little warrior his adventure arrived a decade too late.