The first game in this year’s Xbox Live Summer of Arcade will see two brothers, who happen to communicate in the style of grumpy Teletubbies, working together to find a cure for their dying father.
Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons from Starbreeze Studios sounds like it may be the perfect puzzle adventure for two players to enjoy in co-op on these long, hot Summer days. However, the big twist and unique selling point of Brothers is that it is a single player game, and the player has to control both brothers at the same time with a very simple control system. One brother is controlled with the left side of the gamepad, the stick for movement and the trigger for actions, and the other brother is controlled at the same time with the right.
Although simple to grasp, it can take a little while to put this method of control into practice. The brain tends to concentrate on one brother at a time, while the other brother is walking into a wall or is just completely ignored. Thankfully, the game moves along slow enough that there is no real urgency to master this concept of controlling both brothers at the same time until the player is ready.
So, the tale is that there are two brothers, one younger and one older. At the beginning of the game, their father is taken ill and the only way to cure him will be to collect the Water of Life, thus starting the brothers’ journey.
All of this is set in a fantasy world which bears some resemblance to the Fable series of games. As already mentioned, communication in the game takes the form of a made up language and there are no subtitles to translate conversations. Instead, the scenes are descriptive enough with plenty of hand gestures and tomes of voice to convey the meaning and describe what is going on. It is a charming way to tell a story and the interactions themselves can be quite memorable, even if the story does take a rather predictable route. The game can be finished in a matter of three or four hours, which is a little short, but the ending makes it all worthwhile.
The puzzles come from the fact that each brother interacts differently with the environment and its inhabitants. For example, when confronted with a high ledge, the stronger older brother can boost the younger brother up, where the younger brother can lower a rope for the older. With the inhabitants, one brother may be more favorably met than the other, with one given a solution while the other is dismissed out of hand. The puzzles themselves are not especially taxing, although they do increase in difficulty as the game progresses, but when combined with the stress-inducing controls the game can border on frustrating at times.
Visually, Brothers really does look great. The environments are nicely detailed and have a wonderful fairytale look about them, and the characters look great, especially as they interact and garble their gibberish. The audio is equally impressive with a lovely soundtrack, and even the gibberish that the characters spout is endearing.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is quite unique in both its controls and the way it wordlessly tells its story. These aspects may not be to everyone’s taste, especially the controls which some will find frustrating, but it is these very aspects that will make the game appealing to others. It is a touch on the short side, but is entertaining throughout and well worth picking up for a Summer break from the usual gaming fare.