Two brothers, two thumbs. A coincidence?
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is the latest downloadable title coming to Xbox Live Arcade from Starbreeze Studio. The game has been produced by Swedish Josef Fares, a Crystal-Simorgh winning film director, who turns his hand to video games to tell us the interesting story of two brothers who embark on a quest to find the ‘water of life’ to cure their ill father.
The game is a single player experience, in which you simultaneously control two brothers, one via each analogue stick. Little brother is controlled by the left stick, while Big Brother is controlled by the right stick. During your adventure, each of the brothers interactions come in the form of various objectives and puzzles based within the environment.
Each brother has an action button to perform the various required tasks and the two brothers will have to work together to progress. For instance, both brothers may be needed to push gates together. If one of the brothers cannot reach a higher level within the game environment, the tow of them together may be able to find a way to get up there. Discovery and exploration are the key element to the storytelling, along with the simple mechanical gameplay that gives brothers a unique feel and makes it an interesting experience.
Brothers is graced with visually stunning animation, which is very reminiscent of the Fable games. The characters in Brothers speak no word of English and chat with a language of their very own, but the game manages to communicate with the player through easy to understand gestures if it really needs to. If your two brothers get separated and one wanders off down a path, the game will only allow you to go so far before the brother starts waving his arms and yelling, bringing to your attention that his sibling has been left behind.
The way each brother interacts with the environment differs, and engaging with NPCs will give different reactions depending on which brother is communicating. In the early demo build Josef Fares showed us during a presentation, we got to see the brothers interacting with each other, throwing a ball between them or shooting a ball through a hoop. Many of the puzzles require you to think long and hard about the environment and understand that each brother can interact in a different way. For instance, while the Little Brother might be able to shoo away a herd of sheep, the Big Brother can get up close and pick a sheep up.
Josef explained that many of the 12 achievements available within the game are from little storylines, rather than wandering around collecting items. Moving both brothers involves thinking quite differently and the aim is to get both brothers from point A to point B. Learning to move the two brothers in unison and navigate the game world at the same time will take some getting used to.
There are a variety of situations within the game where the player will have to think on their feet. For example, the two brothers may be confronted by a field of haystacks and rocks you could climb, but a vicious dog is blocking your path. One brother could distract the dog while the other rushes past to climb onto the rocks. The brother on the rocks could then distract the dog from safety, allowing the first brother to avoid the raging dog.
Although the camera view can be adjusted using the buffer buttons, the game seems to do a good job of moving the camera to where you need it. The main gameplay mechanics are very similar to Animal Crossing Sweet Day, where the player has to negotiate the environment with each thumb controlling a different character, and the puzzles are reminiscent of The Cave.
Brothers is not set to be a large game, offering only three or four hours of gameplay. But Brothers promises to re-use certain gameplay mechanics, providing a different experience to the player each time they play. The game is charming, creative and the way each brother interacts with the environment, animals or other characters is enjoyable. Brothers looks engaging and the storyline intrigues me, leaving me wanting to learn more about the two brothers and their ill father.
Brothers is being published by 505 Games and will be available for XBLA, PSN and PC this Spring.