Brothers – A Tale of a Very Untimely Review

2015-07-26_00014

Brothers is, I suppose, one of the too rare games that actually tries to use its gameplay rather than its cutscenes to convey the creators’ deeper artistic meaning.  As the player, you control the titular brothers simultaneously, with each analog stick individually guiding one of the two.  The left stick controls the older brother, while the right stick moves the younger.  Similarly, the left and right triggers serve as the action buttons for each character.  All actions in the game are contextual to the object on which the action is being performed.  At its core, Brothers is a puzzle game where you must use the brothers cooperatively to overcome obstacle and allow them to progress on their quest.  Consequently, with the player guiding the brothers’ relationship, it is through this “single-player co-op” gameplay that the game’s deeper themes of the strength and bond of brotherhood are expressed.

The story of Brothers is fairly simple.  Actually, I found the whole game to be almost fairy tale-like.  A pair of brothers, one older, stronger and more mature and the other younger and more innocent, set off on a journey through a fantasy land to find a remedy to save their dying father.  The quest is, for the most part, a non-violent trek, and the brothers must work together to overcome the obstacles they face along the way.  Each brother has his own strengths to utilize. For instance, the younger, smaller brother can fit through tight spaces, while the older brother can lift the younger onto high ledges.

2015-07-25_00006

The game has a very “scenic” quality to it that reminds me of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus.  I was always very fond of the quiet awe those games were able to convey to the player.  In Brothers, the way in which the player is shown the world feels very natural, for lack of a better word.  You’re constantly being treated to these incredible scenic vistas, and the entire journey has a sort of lonely quality that makes you all the more humbled by your surroundings.  And while a lot of games would use big, sweeping cutscenes to show off the grandeur of in-game locales, Brothers is mostly content to just let the player incidentally view the many fantastical sights the game has to show while they go about their quest.

While Brothers uses its two-stick gameplay mechanic to arguably help the player empathize with the fraternal bond of the main characters, I felt that, in the end, it didn’t go far enough with it.  The game does a good job of conveying how much these characters rely on each other, which ultimately is important in the ending it sets up.  But my problem was that it doesn’t go quite as far as it could have in giving us a nuanced understand of the brothers’ relationship.  They help each other overcome the challenges that they face, occasionally share a funny or joyous moment, and they explode with distress when the other is threatened.  But shared experiences are about as far as it gets in terms of emotional complexity.  I should note at this point that the start of this game informs us that the brothers’ mother died before the game begins, and that the younger brother watched helplessly as she drowned.  There’s some slight hints in a dream sequence that there are feelings of guilt, resentment, and anger between the two over her death, but it doesn’t really get developed beyond that.  Maybe the developers wanted it to be left to player inference, but I felt better emphasis on this facet of their relationship could have really helped the narrative. 2015-07-26_00005

Ultimately, I felt I enjoyed the world of Brothers more than I enjoyed the story it had to tell.  There is a very beautiful and awe-filled world that is presented here.  As I mentioned, the story I felt to be a little shallow, and I thought it ended in a way that was just a bit too emotionally manipulative.  It really wants you to feel strongly about the game’s resolution in a way that made me very conscious of the author’s hand in the story.  Although, I will say that the final stretch of the game does use the two-stick/two-button mechanic in a way that really impressed me with how cleverly it was fit in the narrative.  All-in-all, I did like the story even for all its simplicity, and I recommend Brothers as a good Steam sale game, if nothing else.  It took me no longer than 3 hours to complete, and I think its brevity actually enhances its value, as it’s the kind of game that could have worn out its welcome very quickly if drawn out too long.

Advertisements

Posted on August 5, 2015, in Essays and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. This game looks good! Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was impressed by this game. I applaud it’s creative choices and how it delivered an emotional story without dialogue.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It may just be my experience, but I often find myself shying away from works that are described as emotional journeys. All too often, it just means that the author is going to write as though subtlety and tact are alien concepts to them (and then repeat their points nine times just in case you had the gall to form your own interpretation). It’s why I think Dragon Quest V is the best game to have a pathos-driven story; the characteristic simple storytelling that was commonplace in JRPGs at the time complements that tone perfectly. That is to say, it says its piece then moves on with nary a trace of filler to be found.

    Another disappointing aspect about these types of games is that once you get past the pathos, you’re left with a by-the-book example of whatever genre that game is in, invariably overshadowed by those that came before it. This just means that if you’re not drawn in by the story, you’re left with nothing.

    Anyway, it doesn’t look like this game has those problems. The idea of controlling a different character with each control stick is a novel one indeed. Also, the lack of dialogue would ensure that the emotional aspect wouldn’t get too annoying. Maybe I’ll check it out at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really enjoyed this game, impactful ending too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Brothers was a game I enjoyed a lot and is among the examples I use when I talk about how games are as valid a means of expression as movies or books. And I say that not because of the story, which is a standard fairytale with orcs and trolls, but of how the developers made a novel use of what defines gaming – your control over what happens on the screen – and turned it into part of the storytelling, as you grow used to using both thumbsticks throughout the game and, at the end, have the stark contrast of using only one after the final events. It sounds a bit droll when I describe it, but I definitely had an “oooh, that’s brilliant” moment when I first played through the game and reached that moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I absolutely agree with you on this one! The world looks amazing in Brothers and all those magical creatures characters encounter on their journey seem only natural there. But the ending tries to provoke too much of an emotional response — I don’t like that too. And since I rarely play with a controller and this game has this unusual two stickers mechanic, camera and controls were irritating at first.

    By the way, have you played Ori and the Blind Forest? It seems to have similar fairy tale atmosphere (it’s a platformer though).

    Like

    • Hi, thank you for leaving a comment on my post. I haven’t played Ori yet, but it is on my list of games that I want to play. It definitely does have some very eye-catching scenery, and I enjoy platformers a lot.

      Like

  1. Pingback: Best Underrated $5 or Less Deals from the Steam Summer Sale: 2016 Edition! | The Maximum Utmost

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: