A blog dedicated to art, entertainment, language, and culture.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Brothers: An Intimate Tale for Two Players

Literature and storytelling have come a long way since early man painted horses on cave walls, but our desire to hear and tell tales has not changed one bit.  The hero's journey, in particular, has been a consistently told and retold epic.


That is how the recent game, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons by Starbreeze Studios, plays out.  The player is given the task of guiding two boys on an odyssey across a beautiful and massive mountainous world, encountering incredible and deadly creatures along the way, in order to find a cure for their father's illness.  The game begins in a fairly lighthearted mood, but as the boys go deeper into the unknown and farther from home, the world grows bleaker.  Eventually, one is left wondering if the cost of the journey was really worth that final reward.  But while it lasted, it was a grand adventure.

What may stand out to the player are the vignettes.  Every area the player explores seems to provide him with a whole new experience.  The brothers will climb mountains with the help of a heartbroken troll, who seems to have stepped straight out of a John Bauer painting.  They will creep through a wolf infested forest at night with only a small, burning branch to guide them.  They will ride on mountain goats leaping across cliffs and then scale the steps of a giant's tower.  With two lead characters, both controlled by the player, one would think that these experiences would be something to be shared.


But Brothers is advertised, on Xbox Live at least, as a single player game.  The brothers can only be guided by one controller with the elder brother acting on the left D-Pad and trigger button and the younger brother on the right.  It can be a bit of a hassle trying to direct both boys in different directions simultaneously, and annoyance with those controls can feel like the game's only drawback.  But here's a thought: Why does a game that uses only one controller have to be a single player game?

The controls are designed perfectly so two people could share the controller, much in the same way the two brothers share an adventure.  The game is filled with intimate and emotional moments, and why should those moments be squandered by adventuring alone with slightly awkward controls?  Two people seated closely next to each other, controller between them, could experience the game in a way that a single soul could not.  Together.  Each one guiding a brother and working with one another, helping one another.

Brothers is an old epic, we've heard time and time again, but delivered to us in a way that is entirely unique and potentially allows an experience that few other works, even among video games, have provided.  It is a shared tale and an intimate tale for two players.

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Regardless of how you play the game, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is fantastic and you should purchase it as a download from the Xbox Live Arcade or Playstation Network.

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