Review: 'Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons'

By Nick Henderson on August 20th, 2013 (4 comments)
og:image:, Brothers A tale of two Sons Review, Brothers, Starbreeze, 505 Games

It can be difficult to shower praise on a game that can ultimately be finished in one sitting. When said game makes an honest effort to shatter your perceptions of conventional game design and does so to satisfying effect, exceptions can be made. With Brothers, the team responsible for one of the best licensed games in history, Starbreeze (Chronicles of Riddick), has delivered a bite sized experience in a package that hardly resembles anything in their portfolio. While not without it's faults, Brothers certainly sets out to leave a lasting impression and it does so in ways that you won't see coming.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Developer: Starbreeze
Publisher: 505 Games
Release Date: August 7th, 2013 (XBLA), August 28th, 2013 (Steam), September 3rd, 2013 (PSN)

At it's most basic level, Brothers is like any other 3rd person adventure game. You will spend most of your time solving puzzles, traversing the environment, and doing whatever it takes to arrive at your destination. In this case, you play a pair of brothers who set off on an adventure from their fictional homeland to find a remedy that they hope will heal their dying father. Sounds simple right? Wrong. In Brothers, you control both brothers simultaneously using the thumbsticks. Each brother is tied to a thumbstick, creating a constant struggle between brain and hands. Think about that. Brothers is essentially a single player co-op game.

og:image:, Brothers, Starbreeze, 505 Games

Things that come naturally in other games such as scaling walls, jumping across chasms, and swinging on ropes are fundamentally different in Brothers. The most basic of platforming is made more complicated thanks to the shared character controls. While the resulting gameplay can sometimes fall to pieces as the puzzles grow in complexity, I found the satisfaction that resulted from success to be more rewarding than other games in the genre.

Of course, by controlling two characters at once, all new doors are opened in regards to puzzle design. One particularly memorable scenario involved moving a long piece of wood through a series of cooridors in order to jam a spinning gear in the middle of a room. In other games, sharing this task with another player would cut the player involvement in half and render the sequence slow and mundane. In Brothers, you must control both brothers on opposite ends of the board and navigate them through tight corners and hallways. It's like that time you tried to move a mattress through a cramped apartment hallway into an awkwardly placed bedroom... but fun.

Aside from breaking the design mold, what Brothers does astonishingly well is create a narrative and a connection with the world and the characters using no real dialogue at all. The brothers communicate using a stange, fictional language and a series of elaborate gestures. It is through this unspoken language, that the player is forced to learn the mechanics and the rules of the world. Each brother can interact different with people, creatures, and objects in the enviroment to often humorous effect. In a world where quick time events and lengthy tutorials reign supreme, I found this style of exploratory gameplay to be incredibly refreshing.

og:image:, Brothers, Starbreeze, 505 Games

As much as I appreciate the fresh concept that is in play, the game does suffer from one glaring problem. This issue stems from the core mechanic itself. Controlling two characters simultaneously can lead to much frustration when your internal wires get crossed. Ultimately, success boils down to moving each brother to their own side of the screen and keeping them there. When things get rowdy and the brothers start crossing to the wrong side of the screen, the brain can tend to overcompensate which usually results in brothers walking into walls or something that otherwise breaks the immersion. It hardly kills the experience but it is a price that the player must pay for the sake of Starbreeze's little experiment.

In this short (3-4 hours) experience, there are plenty of colorful characters to meet (and harrass) and a surprisingly dark tale to sink your teeth into. I was satisfied with the story resolution and the experience ended just as the novelty of the control scheme started to wear off. Perhaps this might indicate that something was missing from the experience but much like a game like Journey, Brothers set out to accomplish a very specific goal and nothing more. Starbreeze weaves a compelling tale that hits all the right notes and serves as an appropriate venue to experiment with non-traditional game design. Bravo.

Score: 88

80-89%: Great - Only very minor issues get in the way of greatness.

Tags: brothers a tale of two sons, brothers, starbreeze, 505 games, Riddick

Nick Henderson

I have been around since the very early days of 4Player but you may know me as “the short one” or the guy who is really into Dexter and that sweet new DmC reboot. I am a gaming enthusiast at my core and I love sharing my opinions on the subject with anyone who will listen. I am a cautious optimist and will try any game at least once. When it comes to gaming, I prefer to leave no stone unturned.

Comment!
  • Xx3ric1993xX 11 months, 1 week ago

    release date is wrong its aug.28 on pc, sept.3 for psn :B

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  • Xx3ric1993xX 11 months, 1 week ago

    edit: sept.3 on pc

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    • Nick Henderson 11 months, 1 week ago

      *Fixed*

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  • Jager 11 months, 1 week ago

    Looks like I'll be adding another game to my backlog. Thanks for the review Nick, this game certainly has my attention now and I'll be sure to pick it up one night when I'm not being barraged by other new releases..!

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