Publisher(s): 505 Games
Platform(s): PS3, Xbox 360, Steam
Review Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: August 7, 2013
The indie renaissance is proving to be one of the most eminent movements this generation. As big publishers dispense derivative sequels year after year, games like Limbo, Braid and Journey continue providing welcoming departures from AAA monotony. That’s not to say that all major releases are unoriginal; they’re certainly not, but countless successful big-budget titles seem to devolve into imitative franchises. This is why many indie games resonate with gamers. They’re memorable because they’re one-of-a-kind. They’re memorable because they don’t abide by fundamentally flawed industry standards. They’re memorable because they’re formed by creativity, passion and the incentive to take risks, instead of irrational focus testing and unrealistic sales expectations.
Starbreeze Studios, generally known for their Chronicles of Riddick and The Darkness games, have teamed up with visionary Swedish film-director Josef Fares (Zozo 2005) to bring us an emotional tale of two brothers in search of the “Water of Life” to save their dying father. From the moment you feast your eyes and ears on the haunting Scandinavian-influenced music and fairy tale visuals, you'll know you’re in for a rare treat. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons will be talked about months from now as being one of the finest indie titles of the past few years. Whether you consider video games to be art or not, Brothers is so masterfully composed in its aesthetics, audio, and gameplay mechanics…it’s hard not to appreciate it as an art form.
Brothers is a single-player co-op puzzle adventure. Think Ico, but with both characters controlled simultaneously. The left analog and shoulder button control the older brother while the right side controls the younger sibling. The gameplay is innovative and a true test of your hemispheric balance. Each brother has a different set of characteristics that require collaborative teamwork for puzzle solving and interacting with the world’s inhabitants.
Everything you see and do in Brothers carries a profound sense of discovery and wonder. The game may be linear and the puzzles aren’t particularly difficult, but they are so creatively crafted, just experiencing them is fun and exciting. Activating levers and overcoming perilous environmental obstacles hasn’t been this much fun in years. There aren’t any real enemy encounters in the game, but there are a few truly memorable boss fights. Much like the platforming, overcoming bosses requires synergy. You can’t fight them head on, so it’s a matter of scouting the environment to discover alternative attack methods. Their climactic encounters are the highlights of the game and serve as a nice change of pace from lever pulling and climbing.
Looking at the screenshots, it’s easy to envision a colorful and lighthearted narrative, but Brothers is anything but joyous. The story is dark, emotional…and thoroughly depressing. By the time the credits rolled, I was quivering…and stared blankly at the screen as the music faded away. This impactful experience is the result of exquisite cinematography by Fares and an art style charmingly complimenting the Brother’s despairing story. Every scene feels like you’re walking through a living, breathing painting and the further you explore the world, the more impressive the scenery becomes.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons needs to be experienced whether you like puzzle adventure games or not. While the journey is brief (3-4 hours), every second spent with the brothers will stay with you long after the game is over. It’s a beautifully macabre fairy tale reminiscent of Grim Brothers’ original writings and I only hope Fares continues exploring the video game realm for his future projects.
Beautifully designed, painterly environments…whose gorgeous aesthetics are accentuated by masterful cinematography. Truly Breathtaking.
It takes a little while to get used to the controls, but once you get the hang of them, the innovative mechanics make each environmental puzzle a real treat to overcome.
It'll be over before you know it, but the few hours you'll spend with Brothers carries more weight than spending 60+hours with most games these days. A truly memorable experience.
The orchestral soundtrack and charmingly gibberish dialogue beautifully compliment the Brothers' bizarre universe.
Review by Tin Salamunic
Tin Salamunic is the founder of The Game Scouts. He is a Video Game Journalist during the day and illustrator by night. He's been obsessed with video games since the early NES days, collecting every major system and game on the market. Video games are the reason he pursued the illustration career and he hopes to be creative director for a video game company one day. All Articles by Tin