‘Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons’

By Michael WORKMAN

Developed by Starbreeze Studios, “Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons” is a downloadable title that may look like a simple indie adventure game, but it is clear that it is much more than that.

Brothers is unique because it was created by a film director rather than a game developer. This has been done in the past with mixed results; John Woo and Steven Spielberg both tried their hands at creating a game. But Brothers is something special that gamers definitely should consider taking a look at.

The game begins with a simple plot – two brothers must go on a journey to find a mystical tree that can cure their ailing father. The player controls the big brother with the left analog stick, and the little brother with the right analog stick in order to solve various puzzles. Each brother has advantages that the other needs. For example, the younger brother is smaller and can fit through tiny openings whereas the older brother is stronger and can pull heavy levers.     Many would assume the game was meant to have co-op features but the creator, Swedish director Josef Fares, insisted it be a single player experience explaining, “The idea of using both sticks for the brothers is the most important thing about this game. I really want the player to feel that the left hand is the big brother and right hand is the little brother. That way, co-op is not an option. Many people wanted me to try that out but that would destroy the vision of the game.”

The story takes the two brothers through peaceful villages, rugged mountains, creepy forests – all of which are detailed and beautiful to behold. In fact there are several stone benches encountered throughout the game that give jaw dropping scenic views.

The setting has fantasy elements as the brothers encounter trolls, giants, and magic. Yet the game makes no attempt to explain certain parts of the story.

An example is when the brothers encounter a walled town filled with people frozen in ice. It looked like the town was being attacked by an army, but all the soldiers and people inside were turned to ice. Did a wizard freeze everyone? Was it a curse? The game never explains it, which lets players draw their own conclusions as to what’s going on.

A key reason why the game can’t give much explanation is that the characters speak in a nonsensical language similar to “The Sims.” This doesn’t hurt the game; in fact, it was very interesting how much the characters could convey even if the player couldn’t understand what they’re saying.

It was a strange feeling at first trying to coordinate two characters with individual analog sticks, but players should adjust after a while playing. This was intended to let players bond with the two brothers as they have different interactions with certain situations that highlight who they are and  how they react to situations.

“For me, I love the interactiveness of gaming,” stated Fares. “That was the main issue, trying to make Brothers as interactive as possible. But where we are inspired by film is in the way a character starts somewhere and grows into something else. That’s in Brothers as well, but it’s an interactive experience –  it’s subtle. You actually play the evolution of your character.”

Playing through Brothers, gamers will see an evolution in the characters. To explain in detail would spoil some important part of the plot, but what I can say is that the choice to make the player control both brothers was a bold and innovative way to connect the narrative with the gameplay. The ending is beautiful and highlights the growth and evolution of the characters and manages to tie it into the very control scheme, which I have never seen done as well as it did in this game.

It is clear that Brothers is a very refreshing departure from other adventure games out there. It takes a simple story and manages to draw the player in through small interactions that subtly make the player emotionally invested till the very end. This demonstrates the fact that independent games are still very relevant and are often the only ones that are taking big risks by trying out new ideas.

“Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons” receives a well deserved 5 out of 5.