In my search for more story games, Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons (Brothers, from here on in) came up. I installed it, and started it up without any real idea of what I was going to see.
The first obstacle was that, even though I got it on PC, it’s designed to be used with a controller. Luckily I had a wired 360 controller floating around (they’re very hard to get down from the ceiling when like that). Once I got beyond that, I can see why you’d need that controller.
First impressions were excellent. The art style reminded me of a somewhat toned down anime and the music was beautiful. As the camera shifted into the first scene, I began to wonder if I’d picked the wrong language option as the characters not only looked like they were from an anime, they sounded like they were from the undubbed version. It slowly dawned on me that this was likely a choice – a bit like the Sims speak ‘simlish’ and animals in Animal Crossing speak ‘animalese’. This gets across emotion and tone, while not “distracting” you too much.
You also now find out why you need a controller. There are two brothers (hence the title, really) and you control the older brother with the left thumbstick and trigger, and the younger brother with the right thumbstick and trigger. If you think this sounds awkward: you’d be right, but I’ll talk more about that later.
Your first task is to get the two brothers to move their sick father to care using a cart. This involves learning to control them both, and learning to solve a few puzzles with their differing abilities. The older brother is bigger and stronger, the younger brother is smaller and can squeeze into smaller gaps, or be lifted up by his older sibling.
Brothers is an interesting game as it’s more focused on story than many games, however, it is more of a game than either Dear Esther or Gone Home; it has actual puzzles that you need to solve in order to progress.
The game itself is very linear – though the world is designed to look like it stretches out in all directions, giving you a feeling a real, expansive world. Rarely do you (or can you) wander from the intended path. There are a few areas you can make it to where you can admire the world below, or perhaps get a view of what’s coming. There are also a few side areas where you can help others in some way. These aren’t required to complete the game, but often give achievements. And possibly a warm, fuzzy feeling.
The world you move through is quite fantastical. While you get the feeling magic might exist, it’s really only made explicit a couple of times. However you do meet giants, gryphon like creatures and other curiosities. There’s a wonderful sense of atmosphere, from the sweeping vistas, to the music, to the art style itself. It all intrigues and gives context to the (admittedly) simple plot.
I do like that they’ve tried something different with the controller, but truthfully, it’s a real pain. In times of action, I’d usually send the wrong brother off in a bad direction and have to restart at a checkpoint because he got killed. If I had time to think, I was able to get the right brother in the right location, but often, I just got frustrated. In the puzzles where the two brothers have to work in a coordinated fashion, more often than not I’d have to restart from the beginning of the puzzle several times.
Still, even with that, the well realised world kept me wanting to come back and see more of it, and find out what happened next.
How does it fare as a “Story Game” though? I think it falls down a little there. The very first scene had me rolling my eyes a little, but then I was dragged into the story and put that aside. However, towards the end, things began to drag somewhat and while I could see a plot twist coming, I had no control over it – and since this feels more like a game than a straight out story, then that just frustrated me.
The beginning of the journey home also felt just too much like a deus ex machina for me to really enjoy it, as uplifting as the visuals and score were at that time.
Really, though, if Grand Theft Auto V hadn’t come out, I’d have another play through of Brothers just to enjoy the atmosphere!