Unless I finish another game today (incredibly unlikely), this marks the third and final game that I have finished this year. And yes, each of them took under 5 hours to complete. It’s not that I have no attention span; it just somehow holds my interest more to play the same 20 Trackmania Canyon tracks for hours on end, or gather and craft in an MMO indefinitely than it does to complete a storyline in a standard single-player game. So let’s talk about Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, shall we?
Brothers taught me one important lesson: I have no soul. I was so excited for this game – in fact, that’s the reason I wanted to squeeze it in before the end of the year. I figured that if half of the hype I’ve heard about this game was true, it’s almost certain to knock Gone Home out of the #1 spot on my inevitable GOTY post for 2013. I heard many grand things about this game: that it tied narrative and gameplay together better than any other game ever, that it was so emotional, etc.
As for me, the former is certainly true. I’m just going to guess that the latter is also true for someone with a soul, and that that is why it didn’t have such an affect on me. But to be fair, Gone Home had a much greater impact on my emotionally, so I suppose it’s still possible to touch that charred lump of coal in my chest. It just doesn’t seem to work with a dead mother, a sick father, or any other kind of family crisis. Or maybe I just need characters to speak real words instead of the Simlish-esque language of Brothers. Also, I usually identify much more with playing a single character rather than a group – even of two. Or maybe it’s something else entirely about the way it was executed. In any case, Brothers didn’t hit me in any of the heart places it was apparently supposed to.
What it was, though, was a few hours of an epic journey across a beautiful world with varied, interesting, and fun game mechanics which were, indeed, tied brilliantly to the narrative. You control Big Brother with the left analog stick and trigger, and the Little Brother with the right analog stick and trigger. I wouldn’t say that controlling both brothers at the same time ever became natural to me, but I did surprise myself on occasion with some skillful moves, playing a weird upside-down leapfrog by alternately swinging each brother under one another while they were tied together, hanging on dangerously high ledges.
You’re given a few breaks from the action to sit on a bench and enjoy the gorgeous scenery.
Then the orca-sharks attack.
And these are the moments that really make your journey feel epic. But it’s the little things that give the game character. Each brother will interact differently with any particular person or object, and there are minigames in which you help cute animals that are completely optional and off your otherwise linear path.
So it may not have been the tear-jerker for me that it was advertised to be, but Brothers was unquestionably an experience I would highly recommend to anyone who wants a unique gameplay experience, and for those with real live beating hearts, an emotional story tied to that brilliant gameplay.