I personally love that every time a licensed game comes across my desk I don’t have to scoff at it anymore. Games based on Disney properties are becoming more and more exciting to review simply because they are not always forced drivel. Brave is such an example. Even at the thought of what this could possibly be, I was still optimistic that the final game would turn out enjoyable. Thankfully, I was correct. Brave is definitely a solid title that brings a familiar genre into a familiar setting and executes it well. Sure there are some rough edges, but the end result is a game that I really had a lot of fun playing through.
Much like the movie, the game stars Merida, the stubborn Scottish princess who is the daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. The game follows loosely the same plot as the movie as Merida is to be wed to one of three lords. She wants no part in it. The game picks up after she has requested the potion from the witch to turn her mother into a bear. Chaos ensues, and now Merida must remove the curse from the world. I honestly felt like the story, while well-told is simply there to help you move from level to level. The voice acting is well done, and the music is Scottish goodness, so I won’t complain too much.
As a game it is hard to describe Brave without making some comparisons to top-down action/RPGs. You move around a set area while attacking with your sword and shooting your bow with the right stick. This almost makes it feel like a hybrid of a twin-stick shooter, and honestly it works great. The combination of melee and ranged really works and makes me wonder why other developers haven’t adapted this control scheme more effectively. Everything feels fluid and, most importantly, fun.
As you progress, you will gain elemental powers which are applied to your sword and bow. These open up puzzles and enemy weaknesses. For instance, tree enemies are weak against fire, while rock golems are mostly weak against wind. Each enemy will have their weakness above their head, and switching between them is as simple as tapping the left and right triggers/bumpers. Combat is incredibly smooth, and strafing around, taking down enemies becomes second nature quickly. You also have an upgrade system that uses coins you collect in the world. This allows you to purchase new and upgraded moves. I highly suggest grabbing the dodge early on, it is crucial later in the game.
There are eight total levels, and each one runs you anywhere from 30-45 mins. It isn’t a long game, but there are items to collect in each level. New bows, swords and outfits (which are only cosmetic changes) are available. I found myself going back to previous levels to collect stuff I missed, but honestly if you pay close enough attention, you can find it all on one play through. I would have liked to see some puzzles or areas locked off until you get certain powers forcing you to go back, but I also understand why they omitted that.
In addition to combat, you will also run into areas where you control your Mother in bear form. These are closed off areas that basically have you ground slamming enemies into oblivion. You will also have to solve puzzles using the overly cute triplets that have you switching between them to pull switches and stand on activating panels. It is a clever mechanic, but also one that doesn’t require a whole lot of contemplation.
The game also offers up local co-op for you and a friend to play through. While not overly exciting it does add a new layer to let you play through with a younger player. Kinect support is also included, but does little to enhance the overall experience.
The one area that kind of disappointed me was the visuals. On the surface, the game looks fine, but some of the choices are questionable. For example, I feel like the camera is sometimes pulled too far out, causing you to get lost in some of the chaos. The frame rate also takes odd hits at weird times. It didn’t always happen when the action was the heaviest, but sometimes as the camera pans around. It is jarring and noticeable. Also, the demo video that runs is embarrassingly low resolution. These small hindrances bring down an otherwise fine looking game. It captures the spirit of the movie just fine, and as I mentioned, the music and voice work is fairly well done.
Brave is a delightful game that was more fun than it should have been. I am really starting to enjoy reviewing these games, as developers get to toss in new ideas on licensed products, and apparently get time to actually craft a fun experience. If you enjoy the movie or the lore, I highly recommend checking this game out. It is truly one of the best licensed games I have played in a while. It may be short, but you and whomever you choose to play it with young or old, will undoubtedly have a great time with it.
Review copy of game provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.