Though my clothes are still soaked from my own tears, I thought I’d take a broment to talk about Brothers: a Tale of Two Sons. Published by 505 Games and Developed by Swedish game studio Starbreeze Studios (in collaboration with Swedish film director Josef Fares), Brothers is the best downloadable game I’ve played since Journey. In fact, Brothers is the best downloadable game I’ve ever played.
Released on Xbox Live last month and now available on Steam and PS3, Brothers is a whimsical adventure game built off of the highly inventive concept of single player co-op. What that means is that each character (a younger brother and an older brother) are controlled separately, one with the left control stick and one with the right. The results are like a series of brain dominance tests (think of patting your head while rubbing your stomach). With this control scheme you must solve various puzzles and overcome obstacles. There’s not really any combat to speak of but that hardly matters. Brothers is not only appealing because of it’s unconventional gameplay but its deeply engrossing world and powerful narrative.
First off, I gotta come clean. When I found out each brother was going to be controlled separately I saw an opportunity. Instead of playing this by myself I shared the controller with my girlfriend. Now you’d think that would make it easier, and in some areas it was, but in others it was even harder. Two minds trying to row a boat or guide a hang-glider is not an easy accomplishment. I’d compare it to a Mario Party mini-game with a lot of, “What the hell are you doing? No, turn it left! Left!” I love co-op and look for any opportunity to make it memorable.
Gameplay aside, it’s the atmosphere that makes Brothers so memorable. The story is simple, two brothers must traverse across a magical world to get medicine for their ailing father. Like something out of a Grimm fairy tale, the boys must traverse through the lands of trolls, giants, and other mystical creatures to reach their destination. Most memorably, the boys encounter an owl/cat-like creature which may be the closest I’ll ever get to the still unreleased game The Last Guardian, at least from an emotional standpoint.
The game is brief (about three hours) but I guarantee the experience will be long-lasting. Though I do warn you that Brothers is absolutely heartbreaking, but it’s that same boldness that makes it so impressive. I love everything about it; the gameplay, the atmosphere, the visual design. If it was just a little a longer it would in my opinion be a perfect game. Nothing impresses me more than games with a powerful cinematic sensibility and in that department Brothers is a masterpiece.