Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review – PC
Publisher: 505 Games
Developer: Starbreeze Studios
Release Date: Sep 3, 2013
Genre: Action, Adventure
Reviewed by Mark Smith
Review Score: 5 of 5
Released a few weeks ago on Xbox’s Summer of Arcade; Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is coming to your PC, so set aside 4-5 hours and a box of tissues and prepare to immerse yourself in yet another game that will test your tear ducts as well as your dexterity. Along with some of the most breathtaking graphics I’ve ever seen – no; that word’s not strong enough…”experienced” on the PC, Brothers is going to change the very way you play games by tossing co-op gameplay to the wind and demanding that you learn to play two characters at the same time.
A Tale of Two Sons has one of the most unique and challenging control schemes of any game in my 35-year career, and even though this is now on the PC you are going to need a controller to play it – the opening title screen says as much. Throughout the adventure you are going to be controlling Big and Little Brother, each assigned to an analog stick effectively allowing you to move both characters at the same time. Additionally, the left and right triggers will perform context-sensitive actions leaving the standard face buttons unused for the duration. The only other buttons are the LB/RB which rotate the camera view, but the virtual director controlling my view was always spot-on; at least for playing the game. You may need to rotate the scenery when it comes time to find those secrets.
I can almost guarantee you will have at least 15-30 minutes of awkward learning curve, as you struggle to move the boys around the first level or two. It helps if you keep Little Brother on the right to match his stick, but even three hours into the game I would get the guys crossed and have to pause and adjust. You might be tempted to leapfrog the brothers, moving one then the next, but honestly, it won’t be long before you are moving both guys around the level at the same time, going to different spots and even performing simultaneous actions, and that is when the game finally clicks.
There are plenty of combo puzzles that play on the various attributes of the two brothers. Little Brother can squeeze through bars or get lifted up to higher ledges by his sibling while Big Brother can pull levers or perform other acts of strength. There is a unique co-dependency depicted throughout the game; especially when water is involved, as Little Brother cannot swim and must cling to Big Brother.
The story is rather vague, and there are no cutscenes or even any speech aside from unintelligible babble that was giving me flashbacks to playing ICO, which only makes the level of emotion and immersion in this game that much more remarkable. Basically, your mother is dead and your father is sick, so you (the Two Sons) go off in search of the “Water of Life”; a quest full of adventure, puzzles, and untold dangers.
The personalities of the two brothers are refreshingly unique and expertly realized through subtle animations and sounds. For instance, you might approach a lady sweeping her yard and Big Brother will take the broom and help her while Little Brother takes it and starts doing a balancing act. I quickly found myself trying every possible action with both brothers just to see the results. Little Brother is a bit of a rascal, but if you listen closely there are plenty of moments where you will hear the carefree laughter of Little Brother who probably doesn’t realize the seriousness of their quest – at least as much as Big Brother.
One could easily be content with simply completing the core adventure in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons; a task that will take most gamers 3-4 hours, but there are at least a dozen secrets tucked away in the game, most found only through throughout and patient exploration of the land. None of these are out of the way or likely to interfere with the main quest, but you may want to save them for a second playthrough. Even the most innocent of actions like skipping stones or pausing to sit on any of numerous stone benches around the world to take in the majestic scenery all help to immerse you in this fantasy world and possibly earn you an Achievement.
There are so many memorable moments for me in this game and none of them can be shared lest I spoil the experience of your own personal discovery. Rest assured you have never played a game that does so much with so little. The minimal control scheme belies the fact that you must completely retrain your brain to play this game, and your brain will adapt…so much in fact that in one scene where you only play as Little Brother that left analog stick is dangling there like a broken limb. It’s the first time the loss of a learned gameplay skill has actually left me feeling physically disabled.
This is without a doubt one of the most deserving games for your $15, and is destined to become one of the most talked about games of the year. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons brings unmatched graphics, incredible sound and music, and an enchanted storybook world to unrivaled reality. You’ll squirm as you navigate narrow mountain ledges; you’ll hold your breath as you plunge over a 100-foot waterfall, you’ll cheer with delight as you fly through narrow canyons on a two-person hang glider, and you’ll be stunned into silence as you navigate the valley of giants. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you will almost certainly play it again…if not immediately…very soon.