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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

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Within moments I knew Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was different. The game offers a simple to describe, but complicated to learn control scheme: there are two brothers and one controller, with each brother getting a joystick for movement and a shoulder button for action. The elder brother is the left, and the younger is the right. At all times the elder is the left, and the younger is the right.

— For example, in the screen shot above they sit on a bench and admire the beautiful, sprawling vista. Brothers is full of beautiful, sprawling vistas.

The control scheme and duo dynamic is used by the player to solve puzzles; the puzzles are in most cases environmental and solving them allows the player further access to the world. The exceptions are puzzles that are more combat oriented — although also requiring manipulation of the environment.

The narrative premise is simple. It is so simple that the game does not require any coherent spoken language. It relies instead on the use of body language and camera work in cut scenes to frame its characters and push the narrative onward. There are two brothers, and their father is dying. They are given a map and instructions and sent on their way to retrieve something for their father — presumably something to restore his health. Their mother is already dead (which is established in an early cut scene).

— There is greater nuance to the family dynamic than what I have described, I just would not want to spoil it. That added nuance makes the whole thing much more compelling than it may seem on this page (believe me).

Why you might like it:

Brothers is a game set in a fairy tale (Grimm or Anderson, not Disney). There are incredible sights to see: the caverns and valleys, and mountain tops, and rivers, are all rendered with tremendous attention to detail.

There are blurred reflections and echoes of fairy tales in Brothers. There are no adaptations or direct translations present (that I know of), but the situations that the brothers encounter are still familiar as if from a fairy tale.

Brothers does what I think all the best story-driven games do: it fosters empathy in the player. It makes you walk a while in someone else’s shoes — and in this case two someones.

It also goes one step further than that.

It is usual that in order to reach the end of the story a videogame player must traverse the gameplay challenges and obstacles. That is par for the course. Solve the final puzzle or defeat the final enemies, see the end of the story.

It is downright rare that a story arc is resolved by the gameplay mechanics themselves — that the two are linked and have meaning together, and are not just alternating to an end: and in the case of Brothers, that bond, that link, is very fitting.

This one is worth at least three magic beans, maybe more.

10 out of 10

— I played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons on PS3. For those that have a PS+ account, it is free (right now).I have no idea how it controls using a keyboard and mouse. I can’t imagine well. If you are on PC I would recommend an Xbox 360 controller.

Originally posted at medium.com


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