STAFF REVIEW of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Monday, August 26, 2013.
by Brent Roberts

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Box art In the video game world there are very few times when someone from another entertainment medium can bring together elements from outside the gaming world to produce something that will captivate audiences around the globe. Sure there are games that sell hundreds of millions of copies where you run around and shoot other people, but rarely does a game tap into the most powerful emotion we humans known to exist, love. Starbreeze Studios has worked alongside an award winning Swedish film director Josef Fares to bring you a tale of just how dark the path of unconditional love can be. This innovative tale is priced at 1200 MS points ($15) which is steep when it comes to an Xbox Live Arcade game, and 505 Games publishing it means that there isn't a pedigree of past quality games that will lead you to expect this to be a must have purchase. That our dear readers is where you would be terribly mistaken as Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons could easily be considered the best title 505 Games has ever published. How can we say that? Read on.

All video games on this planet try to do one thing and one thing only, make a connection to the player that will allow them to not only enjoy the game they are playing, but to also keep them coming back for more. Some games accomplish this by allowing you to shoot people hundreds of thousands of times in intense combat while others accomplish this by bringing you the most stunning graphics or breathtaking music. However, a very slight few actually accomplish this tremendous feat through the power of emotion. When we as gamers can relate on an emotional level in any degree, we become hooked on the game. Anger, love, frustration, bliss, and more are all emotions that all of us feel throughout our days and it's this emotional bond that makes Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons so powerful. Starting out by witnessing a catastrophic and unbelievably heart breaking event, you quickly realize that the darkness is not through with you yet. Now, united through this journey, these two brothers set off on a quest for salvation of their father and must rely on their love for their father and each other to see this quest through to the end.

Already the tone of the story is dark; however, it's through this feeling of love for your family that will forever triumph. From the very beginning you are now in control of both brothers. The older brother is controlled through the left thumbstick and the younger brother via the right. The control scheme doesn't stop the division there as the left trigger is the action button for the older brother and the right trigger is, yep you guessed it, the action button for the younger brother. The gameplay mechanics on the surface appear to be very straightforward and simplistic to use, however, you quickly become aware of just how clunky and clumsy controlling two separate characters at the same time can actually be. Finding yourself focusing on one brother while ignoring the other is very common and even though this innovative control layout, you get the feeling that you could do more if you had focused on one brother at a time and then switched between brothers as needed. This fault though is only magnified when you realize that each brother has an individual response to certain instances throughout the lands. The reason it falters more is due to the meaningless execution of these actions. There doesn't seem to feel any sort of "reward or punishment" system established thus creating a void of emotion in a game which is supposed to be focused on that particular thing. One time I took a ball from a little boy who was playing with it and threw it down a well causing the boy to continuously sob his heart out. Did I get punished for this in any way? Not one bit.

That’s not to say though you won't enjoy your quest from start to finish. Each area has some spectacular views that provide beauty at almost every turn. Striking mountains that climb high into the skies above, the rays of sunlight that strike through the clouds onto a watery pond, or even the darkness of night are perfect examples of why this game is a short but beautiful game. Even the musical score of the game dramatically shifts depending upon the upcoming moods. What was tranquil and peaceful can become eerie and dark as the mood shifts just as quickly in the game. There are a few issues though with the sound and that comes in the form of character dialogue. There isn't any. Instead you get Sims style gibberish and vague clues as to where you need to go and what you need to do. There isn't even an option to turn on subtitles, which we reckon is pointless given that there aren't any words to begin with. This is where Brothers could have done better even with just a box of text that could be scrolled through. This lack of spoken word could play a role in another fault with this game and that are the puzzles themselves.

Fairly simplistic would be the Disney term for it as you find yourself struggling to maintain control over both brothers. Increasingly frustrating rapidly becomes the growing trend which is why we believe the puzzles themselves are so simplistic. Trying to complete very complex and challenging puzzles while splitting your focus simultaneously is a quality not many gamers have. This is quite depressing actually as you feel that there is so much more that could be done had there been changes in the gameplay mechanics from the beginning. So while there are some good points and some bad ones as well, we haven't touched on the biggest blemish of them all. The complete absence of any form of multiplayer gameplay.

When you base a game where you control more than one person at the same time, the simple act of having someone else play in your game with you becomes sort of paramount. There have been plenty of blockbuster titles and even budget games that have managed this idea with great success, but sadly not in this game. With so much potential and influence to draw upon, who in their right mind thought that the way to go was to make a game where you have two main characters, yet no one can play with you?

Overall 505 Games has a hit on their hands with Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons, however, not a masterpiece. While 1200 MS points is very pricey for an Xbox Live Arcade game, Brothers has too many faults to warrant a pickup at that price. Yes the game does offer some innovative features, but ultimately the faults hold this game back from becoming something astounding. If the game goes on sale for say, 800 MS points, then sure pick it up. However, for a short game that has many faults at its core, it's better for you to save your 1200 MS points ($15) for something else.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.8 / 10
Visuals: 8.7 / 10
Sound: 7.8 / 10


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