Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons


Parts of a Whole

     A very interesting thing about Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is the fact that the game forces you to work as brothers.  Each half of the controller moves a half of the sibling pair.  The left half directs the elder brother, serious and strong, while the right half moves the younger, small and playful.  Distinctly different personas, each representing a half of the whole.
     It took me a while to get used to controlling 2 separate characters at once, but it was oddly connective.  I was both visually and physically connected to holding these two together.  Working in unison to solve problems and overcome small obstacles.  Starting with one brother lifting the other to higher ground, and gradually working to using each other like a pendulum to swing to higher areas.

     The game begins with the younger brother watching his mother drown.  Aside from the fact she didn't even try to hold on to the boat, it starts a journey on a down note- leaving the younger son with a fear of water.  Right after that the father comes down with a sickness- which sends the two sons on their coming of age journey to find some kind of cure from a magical tree.

     Along the way they meet and help individuals, both human and non-human.  They assist a troll, a few human, and even a giant sea turtle.  Their path even comes across a man attempting suicide after his family died in a house fire, in an emotionally moving scene that is hard to find in any other games out there.


Moving On

     Towards the end the older brother dies.  This was something I was fearful of.  Not necessarily about the death itself, but the resurrecting of the character.  I was worried they would make him come back to life to create an overly happy world and all that sparkly business.  Well, I was worried for no reason- as the way they handled it was absolutely brilliant.  Sad and realistic.  Much like the man attempting to hang himself earlier, this was something I didn't expect from the game.
     This particular moment is so wonderful because it is handled in a way that forces you deal with the tragedy.  It cannot just be shrugged off.  It cannot be pushed aside.  There is no reloading save points or restarting levels.  The tragic loss of a close family member.  You essentially lose half of yourself and must continue onward.

     In a truly amazing way, the younger brother makes his coming of age by accepting the challenge of moving on.  By facing his fear, and instead of riding on his older brother back to swim across water like all the earlier parts of the game, he is forced to do it himself.  And it is ingeniously done by using the elder brother's action button.  He must take on the responsibility, must take the action and do what he previously relied on his other half for.  He has to do it himself and the gamer experiences that loss and coping with it.
     This isn't a one time thing either, he has to climb a wall shortly after.  The same exact wall, in fact, that originally necessitated the elder brother boosting him up in a team effort.  It was the brothers' first real obstacle and now he must do it alone.

     Brothers has achieved a game that does so much with so little, it's hard not to be impressed.  There's no real dialogue, and it's to the game's benefit.  I've read that others were disappointed with the short playtime, but really, I believe the brevity is an asset.  Telling the tale in the length of a long movie is more than enough time.  Why aren't there more small games like this?  Perhaps this will inspire others to do something small and meaningful.

     In just over 3 hours I was quite impressed by Brothers.  Not by the simple puzzles or the lush environmental beauty, but by the emotions evoked through the gameplay mechanics being tied directly to the brothers themselves.  The controls were part of the storytelling experience itself.  Starbreeze Studios have made something exceedingly genuine and sublime with Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.  It is an extraordinary first game, and I'm very much looking forward to whatever else they come up with for in the future.

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