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

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