I know I’m behind the curve on the game Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons by Starbreeze Studios, but I just couldn’t not write about it after finishing it the other night. This game reminds me so deeply of one of my favorite video games of all time, The Path by Tale of Tales games. The Path came out almost 7 years ago but it’s got one of the most compelling retellings of Little Red Riding Hood I’ve ever played. There’s something about the way Brothers is played, the music and the imagery that is really reminiscent of what Tale of Tales did with The Path.
In Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons, you play the two sons of a man just fallen ill. The titular brothers work together to get their father to a healer at the start of the game, but it’s not enough and the healer points them in the direction of a cure. Nothing I’ve described is told to the player in words either written or spoken by the characters. There’s no subtitles, and while the characters are voiced the words are more akin to Simlish than anything else. You’re given very brief instructions on the screen on how to control the brothers – interacting with the space bar and the right cntl button, and the WASL and arrow keys. The right cntl button isn’t one much used in gaming on the PC and I was skeptical of first of how it would play but after a few minutes in, I found it was pretty easy.
The unique mechanic in Brothers is that instead of moving between characters to accomplish both tasks, you’re essentially operating both characters at once. Both characters must walk in the same direction, you can’t move further if one of the characters is too far in the other direction. So that space bar and right cntl are used as the interactions which are sometimes done simultaneously and sometimes down in conjunction, in some cases holding both. The game is a platformer, so the boys must jump and catch and move to solve puzzles. Since both brothers sometimes need to be working towards their goal, it can feel like a real brain stretch to figure out the timing on certain aspects. There are some things that make this a little easier — you’re unlikely to fall off tree limbs or narrow walkways for one, which can allow you to smash one brother into a wall while the other finishing moving where you need him.
At my best, I found myself moving and jumping with the brothers simultaneously not letting their forward momentum be slowed down by my inability to function for both of them simultaneously. At my worst, I repeatedly lost one brother off a cliff when I let up on the wrong button over and over again. There’s no puzzles it took me too long to figure out and while the story is pretty much a linear journey from start to finish, there are some interesting little things the brothers can accomplish if you let them off the path where the game lets you explore. These are few and far between moments, but you’re often rewarded either by the story or an achievement for the extra effort.
For a game where the main characters are so young, it does cover some grim subjects – starting the game with the death of the boys mother and their father’s illness and continuing into troll caves and a forest of giants slain in battle. The music and the artwork are both gorgeous and a large part of what reminds me of The Path so much, emotion often portrayed just as much by the sound or the look of an area as it is by the characters.
If you haven’t checked out this game before now, it’s $14.99 on Steam but it goes on sale often. It’s maybe four hours long, longer if you search for some of the more hidden bits, but more than worth the small impact to your wallet.