Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons from Starbreeze Studios and Swedish award-winning film director Josef Fares has been on my radar for some time since it was announced and I am pleased to say I was able to go hands on with it at the show, albeit for a short time due to having to make another appointment. For the uninitiated, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is about two brothers who set out to find the “Water of Life” to help their ailing father. It’s an incredibly simple premise that immediately evokes an emotional response from the player.
The simplicity of the premise ties directly into the simplicity of the design and gameplay as each of the brothers are controlled at the same time. The older brother is controlled with the left stick and left trigger, while the younger brother is controlled with the right stick and right trigger.
The brothers have two distinct personalities that are showcased through your interactions with the other NPCs in the game. For example, the elder brother is a kinder, more respectful individual and the younger brother is far more mischievous. Using the left stick to guide the older brother to a woman that is sweeping and pressing the left trigger makes him take the broom and help her sweep. When you move the younger brother to the same woman with the right stick and press the right trigger, the younger brother then takes the broom and starts performing tricks with it, causing the woman to get irritated with him and demand it back. It isn’t a particularly helpful mechanic in this particular situation but it does a great job establishing the characters of the brothers in an extremely simple way. Also, the different personalities will come into play, as the brothers have to interact with other NPCs to get key information for their quest. Keep in mind that there is no spoken or even text based dialogue, so all of the information accrued is gesture based.
The portion I played showcased an example of how the puzzles would work between the two brothers. I reached a farm with hay bales strewn about and a guard dog between point A and point B where I needed the brothers to navigate. Pressing the left trigger, the older brother started whistling to get the dog’s attention. Keeping the dog distracted with the right trigger I used the left stick to move the younger brother to the next hay bale. I then pressed the right trigger to make him jump onto it, pull himself up and start whistling at the dog. Now with the dog’s attention focused on the younger brother, I was able to move the older brother with the right stick to the next bale of hay and repeat the process. It’s simple and intuitive and a remarkable approach to co-op single player gaming. How deep or intricate the puzzles get later in the game remains to be seen, but even at this level, the game will always be fun to play.
With the beautiful visuals, simple and genius gameplay, and touching story, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons should be a breath of fresh air when it finally hits Xbox Live Arcade during this year’s Summer of Arcade, as well as Playstation Network and PC via Steam.