I feel like I have been a little harsh with Brothers the past few posts, but that is mostly because the rest of the game doesn’t really have much worth commenting on, particularly repeatedly. They did a fantastic job with the art, it is stylised enough that it hasn’t aged badly and they can make their characters express themselves despite not having much if any facial animation.
Mechanically the game is simple, but not too easy, the inherent limitation of controlling two characters with the one mind complicates things a surprising amount and the story they tell is touching if bare of details. Especially the loss near the end, the death of the older brother hit very close to home for me though my own experiences may leave me fairly vulnerable to those kinds of stories. I was genuinely moved by the death and burial sequence, though I think mechanically the most powerful part was the most obtuse. Getting the younger brother to swim, once you understand how is a beautifully realised mechanical metaphor demonstrating the growth of the younger brother and the guidance of the older.
Having now played through the game I definitely agree with the praise I recall seeing around the time of release, it is definitely an experience worth having.
It is remarkable now incurious everyone is about the town and its surroundings. Even before the boys close to it we get a hint, mysteriously frozen people in the logging camp definitely show that something is wrong, but you cannot get either one to interact or react to them it is surprising because of how much time Brothers spends on ensuring that each of the two can react and interact differently with so many different little irrelevant objects but here they do nothing. It doesn’t really involve them and they are just passing through with the surprisingly athletic and strong young woman they rescued last time.
The whole experience here leaves me wanting. I want to know more about this village, why it was under attack and how everyone on both sides was frozen in an instant. None of the frozen bodies shows any hint of panic or surprise at the fate of the rest, they must have been caught completely unaware. But I guess ultimately the tree of life cannot be found here, the tale continues.
It is surprising what can bother you. In this case the tower the brothers explore bothers me on a very basic level. Structures have to be built out of available materials, you can’t just scale up regular materials to achieve the same affect without some other built in reason. Especially when you contrast it with the remains of the giant battlefield, there weapons are clearly made out of regular sized trees and materials. We definitely know that giants are around, but we don’t see any giant trees growing anywhere.
It feels to me like seeing tiny people from a series like the Borrowers living in and using items and materials that were clearly custom made and sized to fit them. There simply isn’t the justification for it in the story and I find it surprisingly immersion breaking.
This post is a little late because I have been packing to move house. This potentially could impact some of the future videos next week too.
The boys have had some amazingly poor luck in their journeys, they live in a fantastically hostile world where even the trees are jerks. It is interesting to see how little focus each of the elements are given in this tale. It shows where the focus is, even if I am unlikely to stop asking basic questions as they occur to me.
The boss sections in this game are interesting, because for the most part they are fully aware of how difficult it is to finely control both brothers at the same time and so they just find a way to have the boss puzzle not require it.
The large brother needs to pull a switch and can be safe while the younger brother runs around acting as the distraction is used to pretty good effect here. I am really glad they opted for this kind of approach I found it difficult enough to control two independently moving figures, I have no idea how I would have gotten through even a moderately challenging boss that required both brothers running around on the field at the same time. I can’t split my focus well enough to manage that.
I have been meaning to play Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons since shortly after it released to some very high praise, but for some reason I never ended up getting past the first roughly half an hour. It is a relatively short game with an interesting mechanical hook, a pretty world to wander through and a strong emotional hook despite no dialogue beyond Simlish, it seems like it would be right up my alley. Instead it has languished on my backlog, it was only on consoles, then I was waiting for a sale, then other games distracted me and I just never fuond the time for a couple of nice long dedicated sessions.
It is much easier to make time though when you are trying to do Let’s Plays so I finally sat down, plugged in my wired 360 controller and played from the start.
As beginnings go it works pretty well, you have a cutscene that shows your family have experienced loss recently and are likely to face it again soon, it introduces the fairly simple controls of the interaction button and thumbstick per character, it teaches you that sometimes both brothers have to work on the same object and sometimes they have to work apart and you take a trip into town.