Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is the first game to feature in the Xbox Summer of Arcade promotion and at a glance offers stunning scenery with a compelling and mysterious story. Two brothers heading out on a perilous adventure full of fantasy and mystery, what could be better? A lot actually.
There’s nothing better than going on an adventure when you’re a kid, following an unfamiliar path that leads to a forest full of trees to climb and an endless supply of branches to forge together a make-shift den. If I had a brother I would also probably mention how fun it was and how adventures like this brought us closer together – perhaps in another life.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons sets the scene immediately with a flashback to a time where the younger brother was too scared to dive into the sea and save who I believe to be his mother. Instead he watches from the safety of the boat often crying out some incoherent babble. If that wasn’t already depressing enough we snap out of this daydream to find the older brother shouting for help as it appears his father (I think) has fallen ill. Right away you’re thrown into the game and begin to learn about the mechanics behind Brothers.
The concept is a fairly interesting one that sadly falls flat on it’s face. You control both brothers using each joystick on the controller, the left one is for the older brother (blue) and the right one is for the cowardly younger brother (red) this is also accompanied by the use of the Left Trigger for the older lad as the “action” button, and the Right Trigger for the younger. These action buttons are usually used to instruct the two brothers to hold onto something but I’ll get to that.
Sadly this is what ruins the game completely. Unless you make a concious effort to keep the older brother on the left and the younger to the right or you have impeccable hand-eye coordination you’ll often find yourself getting the controls mixed up causing one, if not both brother to practically drag their faces along the edge of the path. This at times can cause unnecessary frustration and can slow down the game completely – something I really didn’t want to do.
So right at the beginning your given a short cutscene that sees the older brother load the almost dying father onto a wooden cart, you’re then required to use the action button to grab each side with one of the brothers and wheel him down the hill, this is when you’re met with the first puzzle.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is jam packed with puzzles but sadly this is another concept that falls flat on it’s face once you progress further on into the game. Sadly it’s a case of “once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”. The basic puzzle mechanic is often re-used but with a different costume which sadly leaves nothing to the imagination. That being said the puzzles themselves are hardly head scratchers, they’re often way too obvious and slows down the story somewhat.
It’s only really within the first ten or fifteen minutes of the game you’ve experienced everything the game has to offer. You realise that using both brothers to interact with a person or object will eventually lead to the answer as well as each brother has their own unique feature such as the younger brother is able to squeeze through small gaps and the older brother has strength on his side.
The story itself would probably be a lot more interesting if it wasn’t for the Simlish-like language used within the game. This language barrier is only broken by the over exaggerated body language and gestures performed by each character. This odd use of language throws any immersion out of the window making it dull and uninteresting to say the least and removes any personality from the characters that you’re going on this journey with.
The overall design of the game is what throws Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons a lifebuoy. The game design has a hell of a lot going for it and it’s ridiculously pleasing to the eye. In part this is the reason why I continued to play this game and I think the developers knew that. At certain points in the game there are various benches which you can get the two brothers to sit on, this opens up a scene where you can use the left and right bumpers to explore the breathtaking surroundings and for this you’ve got the Unreal Engine 3 to thank.
Along the way you’ll meet some interesting characters which will inadvertently lead you into some sort of quest which benefits them. Thanks to the horrible language barrier you have no idea what you’re doing or why you’re entering this terrifying dungeon until you fulfil the NPC’s request leaving you to continue on your journey with the same feeling a dishcloth must feel after you’ve left it damp and crumpled on the worktop.
Overall Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons could have had a lot going for it. But sadly with the lack of dialogue, the obvious and repetitive puzzle mechanics, and the frustrating controls I can only really give the game credit based on the amazing world that this interactive adventure game is set in.
Though as contradictory as it’s going to sound, I would recommend playing the game just so you experience the game as a whole because that’s exactly what it is – an experience. Would I say it’s worth 1200 Microsoft Points? No, 800, sure, but not that much.