Brothers: Review

As Subtle as a Knuckle Sandwich

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Playstation 3 | Starbreeze Studios | August 7, 2013
Also Available on PC and Xbox360

Brothers is a journey of teamwork across a diverse landscape, seeking redemption and proving your self-worth…or at least that’s how it played out in my head. Brothers contains no dialogue, though the characters speak in emotional tones to convey meaning, allowing the player to craft the narrative as they see it unfold. Of course, everyone will encounter the same sequences of unavoidable events and triggers but how you interrupt it is a Rorschach test into your psyche. Everything you put into this fantastical land will be returned.

The world contains no overt explanations or tutorials on how to play. Each segment is traversed by analyzing the context clues of the area, remembering tricks form previous puzzles and applying to the scenario at hand. Most situations will require both sons working in tandem. No puzzle will ever have you throwing your controller against a wall, but there are a few have awkward controls. There are sequences when you need to rotate the right stick clockwise, move the left stick along a path and press both R2 and L2 the entire time. Though the voyage can be completed in one 4-hour sitting, I would take breaks due to the odd ‘claw’ configuration required.

Each brother is uniquely equipped for the different puzzles and environments. The older brother can swim while the younger rides his back, pull heavy switches or toss his younger sibling onto ledges. The younger brother can squeeze into tight spaces, rotate levers or interact with the environment in mischievous ways. Each can engage with most of the objects around and many times they will do so differently. Through this exploration and interaction, their distinctive personalities come to the forefront.

The passage from the green hilly landscape, to snow capped mountains and raging rivers is enjoyable each step. Though there were times when my steps were crossed. Controlling both brothers simultaneously can be confusing, especially when the left analog stick brother is on the right hand side. The developers, Starbreeze, were able get a lot of mileage out of the simple control scheme. There is little true combat, even the battles are puzzles, and the game is more about traversing and thinking. The world and backdrop is always spectacular, even when it is a gruesome sequence. There is nothing wrong the character models and effects, from a distance but when there is a close-up for a dramatic scene the graphics feel more at home in an early PS3 game than a later entry.

Tragedy after disaster befalls the brothers as they leave their home. It is the catalyst for their trek and is a constant companion amongst the quest. The story makes no allusions that are open to interpretation and will continually remind players that danger is all around. In this, Starbreeze creates a game that will make you feel whether you want to or not but it ultimately feels like a cheap way to tug on your heart strings. The game suffers from a Return of the King style ending as it contains two or three more scenes than necessary to wrap things up.

Brothers is an epic journey that plays like no other game available. The developers took a risk on the control scheme, which feels perfect when controlling the brothers with twin sticks in some puzzles but is frustrating in others, such as rowing a canoe. The story, unfortunately, did not take any risks as they telegraph the ‘twists’ and insist on hitting players over the head with the more tragic moments. Still, it is a journey worth taking and even when you wonder off the path, you will see something spectacular.


Score: 8.0 /10

+ Innovative Controls
+ Beautiful Varied World
+ No Repeated Puzzles
– Frustrating Controls
– “Cheap” Emotional Impact

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