Published on August 14th, 2014 | by Ashleigh Mattern0
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Though the game has a colourful style of art and some cute humour, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons packs a sometimes dark emotional punch.
The colourful, cartoony art style of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons belies its truly dark nature. The game starts with the death of a mother and sickness of a father, and before the end of the game, you take the titular brothers through myriad dangerous and sometimes disturbing situations, including a battlefield of dead and maimed giants.
As a story alone, Brothers offers adventure, suspense, and heartbreak, but it also happens to be challenging and fun to play as a game. This puzzle game has you controlling two characters on screen, big brother Naia and little brother Naiee. Brothers must be played with a controller, because each joystick controls one of the brothers, and the respective trigger makes them interact with the world. Big brother is stronger and can push levers or lift objects, while little brother is smaller, so can slip through bars or be hoisted onto ledges to drop down ropes.
When I tried the demo several months ago, I didn’t immediately buy the game because I found the controls to be mildly frustrating — especially when the brothers accidentally switch sides of the screen, and you’re suddenly trying to control a brother on the right side of the screen with your left hand. But several good reviews and a Steam sale had me finally playing the game. In the end, the controls are relatively easy to master, and ultimately become part of the puzzles in many cases. The puzzles themselves are challenging enough to make me feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in being so clever to have figured it out, without making me want to throw my controller at the screen, or look up cheats online. Truthfully, the puzzles might be a tad on the easy side, but I didn’t mind that so much. And I certainly never felt like the game-makers were trying to make it easy for me.
Each brother interacts with the game environment in a unique way, which made me want to test them out on almost everything I encountered. Little brother teases and plays games with non-player characters (some of whom appreciate his levity, and others who don’t), while big brother is all business, almost always holding up the map to ask where they need to go. The result is incredibly well done character building. I quickly felt as though I knew these characters, which made me care when I failed at puzzles, sending one of the brothers falling to their death, for example. (In these cases, the game restarts at a recent checkpoint).
Visually, the game is absolutely stunning. The characters interact with the environment in a totally natural manner, and the game manages to create a beautiful tableau with every scene. The art style is gorgeous. The combination of great art style plus puzzles reminded me somewhat of Machinarium, a point-and-click game I highly enjoyed. Even the camera angles in Brothers are masterfully set, often showing the best view of the area, with movements that don’t make you dizzy (a problem I’ve had in other games).
Perhaps my favourite part of the game was the emotional experience it delivered. Without giving away too many details, one of the last puzzles in the game uses the controls in a way that lends the actions an emotional weight, very possibly giving me one of the most intense gaming experiences I’ve ever had.
The game was relatively short: I played through it in about three hours, though I missed a ton of side quests in my excitement to move the storyline forward. I may end up picking it up again at some point to complete some of those quests; the game was good enough to warrant another play-through.