The Xbox Summer of Arcade (or Winter of Arcade – depending on which hemisphere you live in) kicked off last week with its first title, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. The game tells the tale of two sons who embark on a journey to save a life, but things do not always go according to plans.
What we like about it
After taking their gravely-ill father to a doctor, the brothers set out to find the Tree of Life in order to save him – and that is pretty much the plot. The brothers do meet some interesting characters along the way, such as a giant troll and spider-lady, but they only serve to help the brothers progress through the stages.
There are no plot twists or turns that gamers would be familiar with in bigger titles, but then again, Brothers is an Xbox Live Arcade Game. Actually, it is one of the better games available at the moment on the Xbox Live market place.
But the fact that the plot is so straight-forward adds to the title, as players will know exactly what to do, and with the linear gameplay mechanic, there is no getting lost or wondering which route to take.
In what is also a complaint about the title, players will take control of the two nameless brothers at the same time, controlling each one with a separate analogue and shoulder button. While it can get confusing, it actually tests the player’s hand-eye co-ordination to the limit, as one wrong move could mean death for a brother.
In terms of graphics, the title added some nice touches to a well-rounded game, with graphics that will make some of today’s boxed title seem ten years old. While there are no subtitles (or any voice-overs, for that matter), just the actions of the characters and their body movement is enough to convey the plot. Developer Starbreeze Studios have also paid a lot of attention to the smaller details - just to make the world a bit more believable.
What we do not like about it
The fact that each brother in controlled by separate analogy sticks and shoulder buttons on the same controller can be very confusing at times. Gamers’ brains almost have to work against each other and truly multitask.
It is almost like playing multiplayer with one player – it is a great proof of concept, but it could have been refined a little bit, such as adapting the title so that gamers can swap between the two brothers, instead of controlling them at the same time.
With that in mind, the controls are actually very easy, as the title only makes use of the directional analogue stick and a shoulder button of all the actions. Players have no need to press the face buttons, as they are not programmed to do anything. So in essence gamers will only make use of two buttons.
But, referring back to the previous point, players will eventually have to press four buttons at the same time to do two different things – and when things get a bit hairy, it will proof to be a challenge. Speaking of challenges, the title is not very difficult, and most of the puzzles are incredibly easy to solve or work around. We would have liked to see a bit more variety in the difficulty of challenges, otherwise it feels like players are not actually achieving something.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a heart-warming and somewhat sad title, and while the plot is not very complex and the title is not very long (about 2 – 3 hours of playtime), it is very entertaining.
The graphics are fantastic and some cool elements have been worked into the gameplay, so it should keep gamers busy for a number of hours. When all is said and done, and players have figured out a way to focus on two things at once, it is actually a charming tale of hope, desperation and the prospect of a better life – it could be described as a charming fairy tale.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor