Brothers: A Tale of Heavy-handed Storytelling

brothers-review

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was released for download on all three major platforms, PS3, X360, and PC, in August and September of last year. It recently became free for PlayStation Plus members. I had a free trial for the service running and decided to take the game for a spin.

The heavy-handed storytelling began right away as it desperately tries to get you to care for the mother of the siblings despite you know nothing about her. In fact, the biggest failure of the story in Brothers is that the characters are never more than 2D and flat. It doesn’t help they speak in gibberish, but this isn’t a problem in a game like Klonoa because we still get subtitles. That’s not the case here. The most you get is some pantomiming which only can convey the most basic of thoughts. It’s certainly not enough for me to care.

The controls are unique where you use the analog sticks to control each brother independently and, from what I understand, were only ever done similarly in The Adventures of Cookie & Creme on the PlayStation 2. The only buttons used are L2 and R2 which help with general interaction with the world.

My brain had the most trouble dealing with walking the siblings down a path when they’d cross to the opposite side of the screen. When I’d stop to reset and regain my bearings the refresh would usually only last about 30 seconds at the most.

Another problem control-wise was at the last part of the game. This is where you control the younger brother independently. You eventually come to were you have to swim and using R2 for his interactions doesn’t work. He simply refuses to swim. There’s no other path to take and no indication whatsoever to the player as to how to advance. It turns out you need to use L2 (the older brother’s interaction button). Why does that work? Did he feel his powerful spirit to carry on? It’s never explained.

And that’s the overall problem I have with Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Everything is just too vague. I mean, I’m no dummy. I certainly don’t need things spelled out for me. It just would’ve benefited from a better way to tell its story. I can say I’m glad I played this game, but I’m also glad I didn’t pay the $15 asking price. It’s certainly not worth that much even with the pleasing graphics. There isn’t any value in replaying it unless you want all 12 trophies.

brothers1
Hahaha! Oops! XD

brothers2
Cut a leg off to clear the way. How could you. *sniff*sniff*

brothers3
*Unreal Tournament announcer* “Headshot!”

brothers4
Winner of the Buried Alive match is Mophead #2.

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8 responses to “Brothers: A Tale of Heavy-handed Storytelling

  1. I enjoyed the concept. It’s definitely worth checking out. When I consider that there are games like The Stanley Parable and Gone Home in many people’s minds in the discussion for greatest games of the year/all time I scoff at it because they don’t even aim to do anything new with gameplay, they just aim to remove it. Brothers at least is at least created with the concept of trying something new out in interaction.

    It doesn’t flesh out it’s ideas enough, it doesn’t deliver enough, but the idea is executed interestingly enough. I did feel awkward not having the older brother for the finale. It was a jarring experience for me and then to have to use some of his controls for his little brother to get him to reach places. It may have been only for the final segment, but that is certainly a more commendable achievement in game design than walking down a hallway.

    I wouldn’t recommend Brothers as a must-play nor do I think it deserves to make any GotY lists. But unlike trash like Dear Esther, Gone Home, The Stanley Parable, etc, Brothers was able to exist as a gameplay/control experiment and I think it’s worth checking out for that alone.

    I dug the locales. I thought there was some great mysticism to the world that went unfortunately unexplored. None of it really mattered to the story, but it was very cool to be in the world. I’m a sucker for an adventure, so even as basic as Brothers is it still managed to get me into the beauty of the world, but like you I did not care for the actual story. I found it unnecessarily overbearing.

    In short I think Brothers has some of what I really hate about the new shorter, experimental games in that it tries to hammer you with some stupid theme. But it also does what I like with these short form games: trying something new with gameplay.

    • The gameplay was novel, sure, but I didn’t feel it was worthwhile enough to recommend it even for that despite it being the best part of the game. Everything related to the narrative and character development was done very poorly. There was nothing done to flesh out the characters and give them personality so you actually care about what happens to them. I can’t believe this game was given such high praise for those very things as if they were done well. It just shows how easy of a pass everyone gives games as long as they simply try to do something story driven. The games don’t even have to succeed and they get praised anyway! What incentive is there to actually do story driven games right if they get praised for failing? This is the kind of thing that has led me to laughing off self-serious gamers and game critics when they recommend indie games because for all their pomposity, they don’t know crap when they see it and just love praising virtually everything that’s indie.

      • I think it was worth playing based on the novelty. I think it’s a chance to see something new. It’s not a success, but it’s a worthwhile experiment, especially on sale or free.

        But I’m with you on everything you’re saying. Characters, narrative, all crap. The praise is unwarranted. This is an above-average game at best with poor writing. I don’t think it deserves the praise or even TotalBiscuit’s GotY but I totally think it’s interesting enough to check out.

    • I realize I didn’t go into the look of Brothers. It’s what happens when trying to type this on my phone into Gmail while seeing Tony Hawk do his thing on TV, I guess. I had no problem with the look. It was well put together. I’m also glad I didn’t spend money on it. $15 is too much for something that doesn’t engage the player and there’s no reason to replay it.

      On the last part of the game where you control the younger brother by himself, did it take you some time before you found what to do at the water? It wasn’t consistent for the controls to be switched up at that point (especially without any indication to the player).

      • I think I paid $5 on Steam. I don’t mind paying that for 3 hours of decent entertainment. As for the last part of the game, it clicked immediately. I knew it meant the younger brother had to overcome his fears, so I immediately hit that left trigger.

        It didn’t spend enough time letting him do that, it just sort of went, “and now you’re tougher for it, kid!” and ended. But I grasped the concept right away. What I found jarring however (in a good way) was when I only saw one character on screen I tried moving him with the left stick as opposed to the right stick. I liked that.

    • What didn’t you like about The Stanley Parable? I can’t tell what you’re supposed to do, because everything I’ve seen says that they can’t tell you or it ruins it. The best I could guess from the game-play videos I have seen is that it looks like the last level of Super Mario Bros. in Bowser’s castle but it’s set in an office building.

      • You literally walk and a narrator tells you where to go. You can go down the path he tells you or do the opposite and you will receive an ending. There are multiple paths that will lead to different endings. All you do is walk.

        It allows you to interact with/against the narrator and that was enough to get people excited. But it features no gameplay. You play it by pressing W to move forward. It is the same garbage as Dear Esther.

        No amount of hyperbole can change what The Stanely Parable is about, you walking down a hallway.

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