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Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PlayStation 3) artwork

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (PlayStation 3) review

"Brothers is an experience game. It fits right in there with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Standing with that crowd and having unique and interesting single-player-doing-co-op gameplay is a massive achievement."

I have a brother...

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a game that excels both in its unique gameplay and its great story telling and theme. The control gimmick is that you control two brothers at the same time. Big brother is controlled with the left stick and he interacts using the left trigger. Little brother is controlled with the right stick and the right trigger. You can make the camera pan left or right using L1 and R1, although typically you don't have to. This basic idea is leveraged in a pretty interesting way.

Brothers is basically designed like a co-op game. The brothers have to work together to accomplish what needs to be done to progress. But since you are playing both characters, you have to work with yourself, making sure the right hand knows what the left is doing. For example, you might need to use the big brother to boost the little one up to a high ledge and then use the little brother to find a way to get the big brother up there too. Or you might need to distract a character with one brother so the other can sneak past. You have to pick up heavy objects together and then maneuver them around. Often you might need to operate some machinery in unison to get it to work that way you want it too.

There aren't really enemies in Brothers, but there are a few boss fights, and they are pretty cool little exercises in getting the two brothers to cooperate and do different things at the same time. All of the interesting ways you make the brothers do stuff in unison leads to an interesting idea: multi-tasking is a lie. It can be hard to do two things at once. Even walking around can be difficult, especially if you get the brother controlled by the left stick over on the right side of the screen. But amazingly, most of the time in Brothers it looks as if two people are playing the two different characters. It's very smooth and natural looking.

Despite how cool and interesting the control concept is, the story and themes in Brothers really steal the show. The game ranges from whimsical fun and joy to deeply disturbing to heartbreaking to heartwarming. It packs in quite a few moments of very disturbing happenings in the world around you, and the way it makes you interact with them is very engaging. I don't want to give even a single example, and I've probably already said too much as I barely knew anything about the game going in and had a great experience discovering the world the two brothers inhabit. There were quite a few scenes that really struck and shocked me more than almost any game I've played. Two or three of the game's moments are especially haunting and will stick with me for a long time. I won't mention what they are, but they vary quite a bit. One is an event that happens out of no where that you end up interacting with. Figuring out what was happening was one of the most motivating moments I've ever experienced in a game; my brain was totally in the moment and wanted me to go do something as if I was seeing a real life event. Another example is the setting of one of the areas; it's a deeply upsetting area that is unlike anything I've ever seen. This setting is my favorite part of the game; it's really something. Just writing about these two different moments in the game I'm reliving the emotions a bit.

Oh yeah... the basic premise of Brothers is that the titular boys' father is ill and the local doctor has sent them on a quest for medicine from a far off place. This set up, and in fact the whole game's story, are told through a fictional foreign language that is not subtitled. It's a lot like Ico in that regard. In fact, the language sounds almost exactly like the one spoken in Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, and the similarities don't end there. The game somehow emulates the otherwise really unique atmosphere of Ico and Shadow really well; a feat I didn't think possible by another developer. It almost feels like another game in that series...*cough*Last Guardian *cough*. It has a companion, disturbing themes and happenings, interesting locales and machinery, wild revelations, all that stuff. Brothers also successfully emulates the same atmosphere as a Studio Ghibli film. I didn't think that was possible either. The lighter moments contrasted with disturbing imagery give it the feel of one of the darker Ghibli films like Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, the one about the airplane making guy, or even the darker parts of Spirited Away. I don't know how Brothers managed to emulate these two amazing feelings; it's like an impossible feat done twice. Usually a game trying to go for an atmosphere like this would instantly fall on its face and be a disaster.

Brothers is a nice looking fully 3D game, which is great, especially since it could probably get away with using a top-down only view. Instead, the view is more like a typical 3rd person game. This allows each area to be a fully realized environment with stunning panoramas, perfectly dressed detailed sets, and a much more immersive experience. The same gameplay could have been put into a much less technically impressive package, but the game would not be the same without the lush details you could only really put into a fully realized 3D world. That said, a lot of the technical problems that come along with a fully 3D world rear their ugly heads here; frame skipping and jumping happens a lot, especially during transitions to new places or during auto-saves, which is a bummer.

The music is pretty cool, with some soaring themes to highlight the traversal of some of the grand, Middle Zealand moutain heights, and a haunting vocal track that highlights the games darker moments.

Brothers is an experience game. It fits right in there with Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Standing with that crowd and having unique and interesting single-player-doing-co-op gameplay is a massive achievement. One or two of the game's events fall flat, but I could list a dozen or so moments from the game off the top of my head that are just flawless. Technical problems break the mood a little, but Brothers always sucks you right back in to what you are doing. It's a game that is going to stick with me for quite some time due to more than a few truly haunting moments and memorable gameplay elements. It's a 4 out of 5.

P.S. Sorry for how vague this review is. Go into the game knowing as little as possible for best results!


Robotic_Attack's avatar
Community review by Robotic_Attack (May 30, 2015)

Robotic Attack reviews every game he plays... almost.

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