Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a downloadable video game that is presently available to buy for the PlayStation 3, PC and Xbox 360. The game is the brainchild of Swedish director Josef Fares who approached Starbreeze Studios (developers of Payday 2, Syndicate and The Darkness) with his vision of an adventure game staring two siblings who must set off on a journey to attain an elixir that can cure their sickly father. The game normally retails for around ten pounds, but as a PS Plus subscriber I was able to nab it for zilch during Sony’s generous April PSN offer.
The game’s unique selling point is that you control both brothers simultaneously even though the title is strictly a one-player affair. Each of the controller’s analogue sticks is assigned to handling the movement of one of the brothers whilst the L and R buttons command the siblings to interact with the environment. Although this may sound awkward to play, on paper, trust me it is surprisingly easy to get used to. The control scheme never becomes frustrating as you can tackle the game’s challenges at your own pace. The light platforming sections are never taxing and Jack Burton reflexes are not required to best the dangers you face.
Instead of finger dexterity, in order to succeed, players need to use their grey matter to suss out how to get past obstacles. As you may expect from a title that asks you to concurrently control two characters, the puzzles you come across require teamwork to solve in addition to making use of each character’s talents. Is a passage too narrow for the eldest brother to traverse? Try squeezing in with the younger sibling instead. Stuck because the little guy’s aqua phobia prevents him from swimming across a stream? No worries. Get him to cling onto big bro and have the older boy carry them both across the river.
One thing I appreciated about Brothers is its attention to detail, which gives each of the main characters a distinct personality. How they interact with strangers for example is very different. The older brother may ask a passer-by for directions whilst the younger sibling will playfully challenge the same person to a game of rock/paper/scissors. It’s neat touches like that that make you want to explore the game’s world. Sadly the main story is fairly linear although there are some optional quests to discover, which will reward anyone uncovering them with achievements. Even if you aren’t the type who covets trophies I would still encourage tackling the side quests, as they can be surprisingly touching. One of the quests for example has you preventing a suicide whilst another asks you to reunite a momma turtle with her missing offspring (aw.)
Graphically Brothers isn’t a visual powerhouse, as you may deduce from its small download size, but I was nonetheless impressed by its picturesque locations. I was also taken in by its emotional tale, which it manages to convey without a single word of dialogue (the characters appear to speak the same language as the Sims.) Its bittersweet story alone is enough for me to give it a score of five stars. The only negative I could levy at the title is its length (I completed it in three hourly sittings) but it’s not something I would penalize the game for given that I downloaded it for free. If you find the game on sale I can highly recommend it, especially if you appreciate artistic titles like Journey.