STAFF REVIEW of My Brother Rabbit (Xbox One)

Friday, November 2, 2018.
by Chad Goodmurphy

My Brother Rabbit Box art As children, many of us were enthralled by hidden object books like Where’s Waldo? as well as its numerous peers and imitators. For some people, this interest has expanded into video games, where a hidden object genre exists despite getting little publicity or word of mouth. It’s here where Artifex Mundi likes to do business on mobile, PC and console.

The latest hidden object game to come out of that Polish studio is My Brother Rabbit, a sad but charming affair that stands out thanks to its visual style. A slow-paced experience through and through, it’s something that has been made for more of a niche audience, and won’t appeal to those who like their gaming to be fast, competitive, cinematic or full of bullets. This is a title for those who enjoy exercising their brains within an interactive space.

At the heart of My Brother Rabbit lays a very touching story, wherein a young family must deal with an unexpected illness. Their young daughter – the youngest of two children – has fallen ill and nobody knows what’s wrong. She’s rushed to hospital, and her family follows suit, with her older brother and his favourite stuffed toy (a rabbit) in tow. What follows is a trip into a fantasy land, which one presumes is set inside the boy’s imagination. Through it, his sister’s time at different hospitals unfolds, as do the experiences that they share with both each other and their loving parents, including medical tests and the crippling anxiety that comes with them.

This real world story is presented briefly, through hand drawn imagery that is reminiscent of a storybook of sorts. It’s professionally done, looks nice and conveys events in a moving comic kind of way, while being devoid of any dialogue. In fact, all of My Brother Rabbit is dialogue free, making it feel more surreal and also more personal in some ways.

Those scenes only account for a very, very small portion of this game, meaning that most of this three-or-so-hour-long experience takes place inside a world of fantasy.

Within this fantastical realm the brother is depicted as the heroic rabbit, and must come to the aid of his sick and feeble sister, who’s shown as some sort of plant creature, with a head that resembles a flower’s bulb. Both are animated in a unique way, with visuals that bring painted children’s books to mind, and the same is true of a lot of what surrounds them. Thus, to say that My Brother Rabbit has a unique art style would be stating the obvious.

When the characters move, it’s because they’re scripted to, or you’ve simply changed locations, because the game world is made up of chapters, and each one is set within a set of up to several different locations. As you explore, find objects and solve puzzles via cursor, you’ll open up pathways to new areas and will be able to go there by pressing 'A' over the ladder (or arrow) that will take you there. It’s pretty simple in practice, and is like moving from one page of a storybook to another.

When I mentioned hidden objects, you might’ve been thinking about having to look for one or two of multiple different kinds of items. The truth is that, while My Brother Rabbit does ask you to look for a ton of different objects and creatures, it often asks for many of the same kind. So, if you’re looking for butterflies, or perhaps even spiders, in order to solve a puzzle and open a door, you’ll be looking for maybe 6-8 of them as opposed to just one or two. This is true of practically every hidden item. In fact, being asked to find three of something is a rarity.

Every chapter is set in a different part of the world, and is themed after it. As one progresses, the rabbit helps the plant travel from beginning to end across a crayon-drawn map. Their transportation includes a mine cart, aerial transportation and even wind.

Each location has its own unique objects to find, but a lot of them are quite similar. I would’ve thought that they’d all be quite different in this respect, but you’re often looking for similar things: bugs, handles for machinery, gears, plants, eggs and other natural objects. Certain environments lead to other objectives, though, such as the final chapter requiring you to go underwater to find crabs, pearls, and that kind of thing.

Near the end of most chapters, one is also tasked with putting a machine or vehicle of some sort together, be it a wind bike, a boat, a robotic moose or something else. This involves finding multiple objects within a single environment, then slotting them all into their proper places, so as to bring the thing to life. It’s pretty simple and doesn’t take too long, but provides a breath of fresh air from the otherwise slow and methodical gameplay.

To say that some items are well hidden would be an understatement. Some are terribly hard to find, because they’re hidden in crevices or blend into the environment. There will also be times where you won’t know what you’re looking for, or will have found something before it was needed. As you progress through each chapter and location, more and more things will be required, so something you touched earlier and didn’t get a response from will likely be needed later. This can be a little bit frustrating, because it can be easy to forget where some things were, given the amount of objects you’re tasked with finding and how well they blend into the environments.

My Brother Rabbit’s developers have attempted to make things easier by using colour to indicate whether an object is still hidden within a certain area. The icons that show what you need to collect are always found in the top right corner of the screen, and if there’s one nearby the icon stays coloured. Conversely, if you’ve found each of that type of object that said location has to offer, the icon will be grayscale.

The thing is that, while My Brother Rabbit is certainly playable on consoles and doesn’t have any major performance issues, it’s obvious that the game was made for a mouse. I found it difficult to find certain objects, and found some puzzles to be somewhat obtuse at times, which is what led me to watch a YouTube guide whenever I needed help. It’s not something I normally do, or something that I like to do at all, but it was necessary for this game due to its difficulty, given how hard some of the items were to find. While watching this walkthrough, which was created using the PC version of the game, I noticed how much better the mouse was at selecting objects in the environment.

On console, you get a relatively sizeable circle, and you’re to press A to select something. The problem is that it doesn’t always work perfectly. I would sometimes move the cursor throughout the environments, while constantly pressing A to see if it would find something I couldn’t see or find, and would then get frustrated. Then, I’d watch the walkthrough and notice that I had hovered over the item and pressed A without response, which was frustrating. This didn’t happen enough to be a huge problem, but when it did it was certainly annoying. And it happened more than once.

The above-mentioned issue, coupled with how hard it can be to find certain items, as well as how obtuse a few of the puzzles can be, combine to artificially lengthen My Brother Rabbit. This isn’t a very long experience, and is one that could be finished in a couple of hours, but it took me longer than that. I will admit, though, that I don’t normally play this type of game. I wanted to expand my horizons and give something new a shot, and also took it on to help out. Thus, I was basically a newcomer, and felt overwhelmed early on because there was so little explanation.

Continuing on with that train of thought, My Brother Rabbit is a game that I respected more than I enjoyed. I never found it to be that fun, but I was impressed with its audio and art style, with its hand drawn and painted-feeling locations and characters, as well as the thought that went into certain puzzles. You can tell that a lot of planning went into this game, and I really don’t want to overlook that in my review, even though the gameplay wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. There are some pretty smart puzzles here, which are impressive and overshadow some of the more obtuse and annoying ones.

The story was also especially touching, even if the real world narrative didn’t have much screen time. I applaud the developers for tackling such difficult subject matter, and like how they were able to use it to create something that is both touching and fantastical.

Alas, if you’re a fan of hidden object games, then My Brother Rabbit is certainly worth looking into. It’s not perfect, and can be both tedious and frustrating at times, but its pros outweigh its cons for sure. This is a game that definitely won’t be for everyone, however, and it’s likely that it will only appeal to a somewhat niche audience.

**This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided**

Overall: 6.6 / 10
Gameplay: 6.1 / 10
Visuals: 8.1 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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