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GAME REVIEW: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

brotherBrothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a fantasy puzzle game released by Starbreeze Studios in September 2013. What sets it apart from other games is the interesting twist that throughout the game you control two characters simultaneously, one with each hand. This is a little tricky to keep track of at first, but I got the hang of it without too much trouble and it made for some interesting puzzle elements.

The game starts off as the two brothers mourn their dead mother, and then find out their father has taken deathly ill. He will probably die, but he has one slim chance to live if the boys can go on a quest to retrieve a magical healing tonic from a faraway land. There isn’t much time, there’s a lot of ground to cover, and there are many dangerous and wild lands in between. But the brothers don’t hesitate, they head out on their quest with only each other for support and only a rudimentary map to guide them.

2015-01-05_00001As the game starts, their obstacles are of the mundane variety–trying to reach high ledges to get from one place to another, trying to operate a ferry without the ferry operator, trying to avoid the town bully who has nothing better to do than to get in their way. But as they go they come across many dangerous and fantastical obstacles, monsters, underground civilizations, giants. My favorite part of the game was just admiring the visuals as crossing through some of these scenes, particularly a battlefield littered with dead giants that serve as major obstacles to progress.

Although it might sound a little daunting to control two characters at once, it is generally not very difficult. One character is controlled with the WASD keys, the other with the arrow keys, and they each have a general-purpose interaction button. The interaction button does a variety of things, not always obvious, but since the movement through the game is generally pretty linear, if you end up in a place without an obvious solution then you can usually just try interacting with everything using both characters and a solution will present itself. An early puzzle in the game involves trying to reach a high ledge which has a rope coiled at the top of it. The ledge is too high for either character to jump and grab, but if the older brother moves to the bottom of the ledge and interacts he makes a foothold with his hands and then interacting the younger brother with him will boost the younger brother up to lower the rope for the older brother. That’s typical of the sort of interaction that is involved.

2015-01-19_00001One interesting element is that though the boys and others are heard to speak, they don’t do so in English. I’m not sure if they speak a language fabricated for the game or whether it’s an existing language, but it means that the story has to be clear even without any of the words.

I enjoyed the game throughout, though it was very very light on challenge compared to most of the games I enjoy. It’s worth playing for the visuals alone, just don’t expect it to take up a lot of your time.

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Visuals
Reasonably good, some of the creepy monster design is especially good, and the level design though largely linear included some incredibly striking images.

Audio
Good audio.  Among other things, I thought it was cool that although there is dialog it’s not in English–I’m not sure if it’s a real language or an invented one, but the voice acting carries it even though the words were unknown to me.

Challenge
Very low challenge level.  It’s mostly a puzzle game, and most of the solutions were readily apparent–only in a couple cases did I mill around a bit, but rarely more than a minute or two.

Story
Clear storyline–not very complicated since it has to be conveyed without language, but it’s not hard to figure out what the motivation is.  Beyond that it’s mostly an Odyssey kind of plot, traversing from one weirdo situation to the next in a way that’s entertaining if not necessarily related to a single story arc apart from being obstacles to the journey.

Session Time
Generally pretty short.  The game auto-saves when you reach a checkpoint, but the checkpoints are spaced close enough that you’ll rarely lose more than a minute or two of gameplay.

Playability
Very playable–it takes a little practice to get a handle on moving two characters at once and not in unison, but the controls for each are simple enough that a hand for each works fine.

Replayability
There are some sidequests and Easter eggs, which you can spot by looking at the achievements list, but I didn’t feel interested enough to go back.  One playthrough was enjoyable but it doesn’t beg for another.

Originality
Clever twist with the two simul-controlled characters.

Playtime
It only took about 2 hours of gameplay to finish this one, so it’s on the short side, even for an indie game.

Overall
Entertaining game throughout, with some particularly striking images.  Gameplay is different enough to make it feel new, but it’s not very challenging and it’s even shorter than most indie games.  You can buy it on Steam for $15.

About David Steffen (64 Articles)
David Steffen is a writer and editor and software engineer and a voracious consumer of podcast fiction. The first piece of fiction he's edited is now available, "Taste the Whip" by Andy Dudak on Diabolical Plots(http://www.diabolicalplots.com/dp-fiction-1-taste-the-whip-by-andy-dudak/). David is also the co-founder and administrator of the The Submission Grinder(http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/), a tool for writers.
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