Many might think it is strange that I immediately went from Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, but that’s just how I roll sometimes. Kind of needed a bit of a palette cleanser, if you will, from the outlandish exploits of Rex Powercolt. And boy did I get it, both from a story and tone perspective, but also from a control scheme. See, I constantly kept messing up which was the grenade button in Blood Dragon, as it always seems to switch between the shooters I play and have played, like Borderlands 2, Gears of War, and Grand Theft Auto V. There is still plenty of confusion to experience in Brothers, but it never has to do with tossing grenades; I’ll explain in a bit.
Brothers is a game that, not surprisingly, revolves around two brothers. One older, the other younger. They live in a nameless fairytale-like world, which more than likely means death and a lesson is right around the corner. Alas, their father is very sick and dying, and the two boys decide to venture off into the wild in search of a very unique and rare medicine, one that can hopefully save the man that raised them. That really is the meat of the story–two siblings battling the elements to save their father’s life–and while it is pretty simple from a plot perspective, it is delicately handled, with love and care and admiration. You could even almost name Starbreeze Studios as the third brother, looking for the other two.
What makes Brothers stand out, for me, is its control scheme and dedication to not speaking a comprehensible word while still being able to tell a coherent story. We’ll start on the former of those two. Each of the two brothers is controlled by one dual stick; that means there is no switching between them, you are controlling both at all times. If I recall correctly, the older brother is the left stick and left trigger, and the other brother commands the right stick and right trigger. The nameless brothers can each perform unique interactions in the environment, such as swimming or climbing up a ladder, and the game’s puzzles revolve mostly around traversal and using these mechanics in tandem.
A couple months before I played Brothers, I also tried out a little ibb and obb. That’s an indie puzzle platformer on PSN with a very similar control scheme, though it does allow for a second player to control one of the two colored blobs, but I went at it solo and nearly broke my brain. Trying to use both sticks at the same time was quite difficult when precise timing and jumping was at hand. Thankfully, since Brothers is slower paced and much more lax, I was able to control both bodies just fine, except for one area where they are tied together with string, and you have to use them in a steady, physics-based rhythm. Also, there’s a hang-gliding sequence that proved problematic until I figured out how to properly tilt left and right just enough to turn without tumbling down to the ground.
Like many, I played through the entire game in one sitting…and didn’t earn a single stupid, trivial Trophy. I love that. Good on the developers. Evidently, the unlockable Trophies are hidden off the main path and demand that you truly explore the world as you come across it. I thought there might have been on for sitting at every bench, but nothing came of that, and when I find some free time down the line, I think I’ll return to Brothers and take it even slower, scouring the levels for these extra slices of interactivity and the vacuous ping of an unlocked digital picture. This also means I get to spend more time listening to the literally soaring soundtrack again, and that’s fine by me.
Brothers is not a very long or happy journey, about three to four hours, but it is a memorable one. It’s driven by love and compassion, and contains some strikingly gloomy and beautiful visuals that will give you pause, that foreshadow events to come and flesh out the world. There’s a moment near the conclusion of the journey that hits you like a rolling boulder, but I wish it lasted longer, as the impact of all that is quickly swept away by the final cutscene of the game and everything ending. Regardless, this one comes highly recommended.