Sweden-based Starbreeze Studios is probably still best known for 2004’s well-received Chronicles of Riddich: Escape from Butcher Bay, as well as The Darkness. Over the summer, they released a short game called Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Envisioned by Swedish director Josef Fares, it’s an original adventure that features unique gameplay that is best described as single-player co-op. It is is available for Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.
The control scheme for Brothers is intuitive: the player controls both brothers at the same time. The older brother is controlled by the left analog stick, the younger brother by the right. Each brother has a single action button, which is the trigger button(L2 or R2 on the PS3) on their side of the controller. In addition, the camera can be rotated by pressing the left and right bumpers (L1 and R1 on the PS3). Although this initially seems quite simple, the task of controlling both brothers at once requires a sort of concentration that most games rarely call upon.
Brothers begins with the younger of the two titular characters recalling the loss of their mother. His sad memory is interrupted by his older brother, who requires his help to transport their sick father. They take him to a doctor, who reveals that his only chance lies in a hard-to-find cure. This introduction sets the tone for the rest of the game. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, though it has occasional lighthearted moments, is a somber adventure.
Taking place in a fairly nondescript rural medieval area, Brothers feels like playing through a fairy tale — a classic Grimm tale, not a modern, watered-down Disney film. The fantastic and the macabre get equal screen time, and the game’s colorful presentation belies its sometimes-grisly story. The graphics are hardly mind-blowing, but considering the game’s cost and length, they are good. They won’t wow you, but they fit the mood brilliantly. Its score is ethereal and haunting.
There is a sense of purpose and camaraderie between the two brothers that is brought about in the way the player gets them to interact. Each brother can perform tasks the other cannot. The elder brother carries the brunt of the burden: he knows how to swim, he can pull large levers, and hoist his younger brother up to higher ledges that either could reach on their own. The junior brother, meanwhile, is adept at squeezing through tight openings. Throughout the game, each brother depends on the other to overcome a myriad of challenges, obstacles, and dangerous encounters.
Like Gone Home, I am hesitant to describe the game any further. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a game whose mechanics and story are so tightly integrated that divulging too much detail could ruin a plot point or puzzle solution.
It’s fifteen bucks. Just give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.