Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (XBLA) Review

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (XBLA) Review

What we liked:

+ Satisfying journey
+ Solid play mechanics
+ Pretty
+ Nice subtext to world

What we didn't like:

- Short
- Not especially challenging

Rating
8.0
Great
DEVELOPER: Starbreeze   |   PUBLISHER: 505 Games   |   RELEASE: 08/07/2013

Review

Teamwork is the key to success.

Leading off this year’s Summer of Arcade, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons packs co-op mechanics into a single player package. Controlling two brothers simultaneously, players embark on a quest to save their father. While the game isn’t very long and doesn’t provide much of a challenge, it’s still a fun journey, and one worth taking.

In Brothers, each sibling is controlled by one of the thumbsticks, with the corresponding trigger acting as their action button. While they are the same in many situations, there are differences between them that affect the game play. For example, the younger brother isn’t strong enough to operate some switches, but his smaller size gives him the ability to squeeze between the bars of some gates. Many of the game’s puzzles require not only the use of both brothers, but also using each for the correct task.

The game’s world is fun and varied. Along the way players will encounter various animals and NPCs that can I could interact with, and each brother interacts with them differently. These are small moments overall, but they add some nice subtext to the world, and help to round out the experience. I liked that the Achievements all focused on actions requiring exploration beyond the beaten path, and in fact it is possible to finish the game without collecting a single one. It serves as nice motivation to explore the surroundings throughout the game.

The brothers encounter many puzzles and obstacles along their journey, which require teamwork in order to proceed. Most of the puzzles require little or no fast movement, keeping the game play accessible for most players. Unfortunately, none of the puzzles are very difficult, and there were only a few instances where it took me more than a minute to figure out what I needed to do. I still enjoyed what was there, I just wish there was more of a challenge.

Visually the game is very nice, with an art style that makes the world come alive. The game progresses through several different environments and all of them look very nice. Small touches, like the light shining through the trees in the forest or the way shadows dance around a campfire are well done, and overall it’s just nice to look at. The game itself seems to realize this, providing benches periodically where players can sit and just take in the scenery.

The sound also does well. Brothers sports a minimalistic soundtrack that lets the ambient noises of the animals and environment come through, but still succeeds in underscoring the emotional moments throughout. Character dialog is not in English (or any other language, as far as I can tell), but the inflection and actions accompanying it provide enough information to tell the story and give insight on the brothers themselves.

Once I got a hang of the controls, Brothers played smoothly, and I had no issues directing either one. There is an autosave system that checkpoints frequently, and death resulted in me starting right back where I was, with no penalty. The only minor complaint I had was some actions (like waking a guard) specifically required one of the brothers to complete, so I wound up interacting with every person twice just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

I really enjoyed Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. While the game is neither particularly challenging nor especially long (I finished in about three and a half hours), it’s a fun, enjoyable journey. The game play is unique, and despite the minimalist nature of the music and dialog the game communicates well with the player. My only real complaint is that 1200 points may be a bit steep for a game that can be finished in a few sittings and has minimal replay value. Still, it’s a good start to the Summer of Arcade, and anyone looking for something different will do well to check it out.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Screenshots
Dave Payerle
Dave enjoys playing video games almost as much as he enjoys buying video games. What his wife calls an "online shopping addiction" he calls "building a library". When he's not digging through the backlog he's hunting for loot in Diablo or wondering when the next Professor Layton game is coming.

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