Thursday, 13 March 2014

"Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons" or "Spider? I hardly know 'er"

It is worth noting, right off the bat, that the nature of this game makes it impossible to write a proper review without spoilers. So, for the sake of those reading who just want my take on it without having the whole game spoiled, I will say right now that I give this a 7.5/10. The nonspoiler breakdown is:

Replayability: This isn't the type of game you replay, unless you missed trophies along the way. It's extremely linear. There's nothing wrong with that, though, it's just how it chooses to handle itself.

Graphics/sound: I refuse to make those two separate sections like many reviewers do, for the simple reason that they
both can be used for the same thing: ambiance. And, in this case, it's fantastic.

Controls: See, many people gave this game downvotes (and thus not a perfect 10) purely because of how this game treats its controls. That is, you play as two brothers, and so you control one with the left stick and the other with the right. It gets confusing at times (unless you're hella ambidextrous), but honestly I liked it. Gaming companies should never be afraid to try new shit rather than just the same controls over and over and over.

Plot: It's a short game, but it's powerful. I wasn't a fan of some of it, which I'll get into below, but that's about it.

Altogether, I give this game a 7.5/10. I'd go higher but there was a bit that bugged me and it hit it hard, in my mind. So from here on out, though, you can expect spoilers. Do not read below this line if you intend on playing this game, which I highly recommend you do.

-----------------------

Pictured: Nyaa (Left), Naiee (Right)
The game begins with you learning of a tragic event in the past of this family, where the mother apparently drowned and the younger of the two brothers was unable to save her, The boys' father, however, is still alive but oh no! He's sick! And so, as a tutorial to the game, you must push your father (who's lying in a wheel barrow) with the two characters, learn how to navigate the various puzzles to get past things, and get to the local Miracle Ma-- I mean healer. Sure enough, the healer gives you a picture of the item you need and so begins the quest of these two brothers.

The softer side of ogres you don't usually see in games

Throughout the quest, you travel across a gorgeous landscape filled with traps, strange creatures, and odd realities. The conclusion one can reach, as you play this game, is that the name of the game is personal growth. Things start relatively innocently, with you first running through a town and dodging a dog chasing your brother and you as you jump from hay barrel to hay barrel, moving on to you using mischief and trickery to handle a few evil ogres and reunite two good ones as they help direct you on your quest.
Easily one of the most beautiful parts of the game

Later, you meet an inventor who lets you use his flying machine in exchange for helping him get back to his home. With this device, you are able to fly a great distance until the device becomes damaged and you land at a strange, giant-sized gatehouse (equipped with a giant bed, table, etc. in the main building). Inside, you find a cage containing an obviously injured hippogryph... and it's from here on that things get darker.


Quickly, the game forces Naiee to learn that the world isn't all fun and games as, after the hippogryph gives you a ride to your next location, it falls dead from exhaustion. From here, you travel down a large cliff into
Crossing over the literal river of blood
what seems to be the remnants of a (fairly recent) war of giants. Literally massive creatures fill this area as you have to "solve" such puzzles as pushing the arrow in one giant's arm to make his arm, which is clutching his battleaxe fall and cut off his foot so you can pass. You walk through this gore more than once as the river switches from blue, to blue with some red, to just a pure river of blood by the end of this trek. Until, finally, you meet the character my review is named for.
The blood ritual's sacrifice

Your characters run into a blood ritual below, with many spear weilding men chanting and offering a young girl (about the age of Nyaa) seemingly as sacrifice. You rescue her, for obvious reasons, deciding to side with the girl over the crazies with a blood ritual. Right off the bat, however, Naiee thinks something is up... but he follows his older brother as they travel with the girl right into her home. Or perhaps, I should say... her lair. It is here the girl changes into her true form: a spider and attempts to eat the brothers. Through a short boss fight you defeat her by ripping off each of her legs, until in her dying breath she delivers a talon strike right into the heart of Nyaa.

The fatal blow
It is from here that I disagree with the plot line. For you see, as you might guess, Nyaa dies from this blow. Dies. As Naiee, you manage to get the potion needed for your father and, through his own strength, surpass all the puzzles you previously needed his older brother for. He finds the strength to swim on his own, to jump a huge cliff without needing a boost up, and bursts into the healer's home before passing out on the ground. The game then ends with Naiee and his father standing over the grave of the older brother and the mother, with the father looking back at the younger brother and then immediately breaking down into tears. Cue credits.

This is my problem with the game. I understand wanting to post a message of growth, to show Naiee that life isn't easy, but a near death experience would've accomplished the same thing. And on top of that, he's already lost his mom - I'm pretty sure he knows full well death is real. To this end, I feel that the death of his older brother is a weak tearjerker ploy, serves no purpose except to gain emotion from the player. And don't get me wrong - it worked. I cried like a little girl, especially during the part where you have to play as Naiee and use the controls to physically pull his brother into his grave, and bury him yourself. It's very well done in that respect, I just don't feel like it needed to happen. 

So that's where my review pulls short. As you can tell from the way I wrote this, I find everything leading up to the ending to be all but perfect. I played through Ico and I fully enjoyed it myself, and this is very similar. It's a beautiful, touching game and the death that I don't agree with is still handled quite well.

So I stand by my 7.5/10. Should I perhaps give it higher? Maybe. But I'm harsh when it comes to plots blowing their own story for the sake of cheap points (be them laughs, cries or easy plot twists), and so this one took 2.5 right out of their score.

But then, that's just my opinion. 

- Tim

Saturday, 8 March 2014

"Remember Me" may not be worth remembering...

Note: Spoilers for the first mission of the game.

So today I started the game "Remember Me". In most ways it's nothing particularly special, but there is one thing about it that grabs my attention. See, the plot is that a company called "Sensen" is essentially running a good chunk of the world with their product that allows you to store your memories, wipe your memories, and share your memories. Tyranny and all that becomes the name of the day, blah de blah blah... We've all seen this plot before in many, MANY games over the past few years 
Nilin, the protagonist.

Where it gets interesting is with your character, Nilin, and her ability to remix memories. (Side note: Nilin is both female AND biracial, so kudos to them for that. And yes, it totally does suck that I still have to say "kudos" just because a main character is black/not white, but such is the age we live in).

The first time you come across this is when a bounty hunter (Olga) shows up to bring you back to jail for crimes against the regime or whatever, and before she can kill Nilin your character grabs her with her special "remixing glove". This launches you into the memories of that character where you see her watching helplessly as her very sick husband (who was also an asshole, so you don't feel too bad for her or him) under goes surgery. Or, what surgery is for that time. Apparently the best way to fix whatever illness he has is by mixing his memory with his wife's (Olga) and the "positive memories" will have a great influence on her. You know, the usual pseudo science nonsense you see in this kind of game.

ANYway, ultimately you find out it's a very costly procedure but Olga can pay for it by killing your character and collecting the bounty. It's at this point, as Olga is leaving to find you, the video "pauses" and lets you rewind the memory until you find certain "memory glitches". Ultimately, your goal is to make her memory be such that she remembers her husband dying on the operating table, killed by the doctor, so that she not only has no reason to kill you but instead wants to help you out.

It's this that's the one cool thing in the game. You remove or move certain things in the memory (in this case, you change which medicine the character receives, remove his anesthesia mask, etc.) and completely alter how they (the victim of your "remixing") remember things happening. It's both plot relevant and an interesting little mini game that you can do. The coolest part is that, of course, you have to rewind/fast forward the video clip slowly and you can edit it, and certain things change even if it doesn't go the way you want to (You can, for example, make them kill Olga... but obviously that doesn't work, since Olga can't "remember her own death" so you have to try again).

Where the game fails, however, is in the OTHER parts of the game; specifically, its linearity and hand holding. I'll get to the latter in a moment, but the game incorporates parkour and has a beautiful world design... but insists on being only one way. You can't talk to random people, so far there's been no side quests to like "enter random memories" which would be really cool, pathways are blocked by people and so you can't go down different alleys... nope, just one path to follow. I don't mind linear games necessarily, but it seems like a HUGE waste for something like this.

Those orange arrows constantly guide you on your "difficult" quest
The hand holding, on the other hand, is a much bigger problem for me. I chose hard mode when I started this game, as in the highest difficulty, to ensure I only had to play it once (I knew how linear it would be going into this), and yet CONSTANTLY the game is holding my hand. Arrows point in the direction of where to go at all times, the game slows down when a big attack is coming in to make sure you can dodge it (as well as giving a huge ! over the head of the enemy at the time of the attack), and of course if you accidentally run off the platform when doing a jump don't worry! Your character will magically spin around and grab the edge of the ledge. We wouldn't want you dying, after all!

But still, this is a game that was created by a first time Dev company, which you can tell is a small one because they (Dontnod Entertainment) don't even have their own wikipedia page yet. Because of this, I will always give them a bit more leeway than I would if this was a Triple A game or, really, anything made by one of the big ones. Since this game was published by Capcom as well, it's entirely possible (nay, likely) the handholding was something the publishers forced them to put in in order to attract the casual market.

So all in all, I give this a 6.5/10. It gets points for graphics and for using a new plotline (referring to the memory control thing - obviously, evil corporation vs good rebels is NOT new. At all.) and occasional game device, but loses it for having the same parkour stuff every game has these days, as well as its linearity and hand holding. Plus, honestly, the plot is nothing to write home about.

But a score of 6.5/10 doesn't mean they failed. No, this company still has a lot of potential, as evidenced by their risk taking in terms of protagonists and trying new things. I look forward to their next title!

- Tim

Certainly wasn't any hand holding back in these days...