Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a story about loss, love, adventure and determination. At the beginning of the story, the player witnesses a flashback where the younger brother is on a boat in choppy waters with a storm raging. He tries desperately to keep his mother from getting sucked in the undertow, but fails. In the present, the brothers’ father falls inexplicably ill forcing the brothers to take him to the doctor in the next town. The doctor tells the brothers their father has a rare illness, an illness that only a rare elixir in a giant tree far away can cure. The older brother is determined to go despite the doctor warning them it is certain death because the path is full of untold danger and peril. There is no other option for them though because their father is all they have left. So they venture forth, forsaking their fear and embark on an adventure full of bizarre creatures, dangerous terrain, traps and almost certain death.
One of the biggest strengths of Brothers’ story is that there are no intelligible lines of dialogue. All the characters speak a foreign language. There is no hint as to what the characters are saying except for animated gestures, and clear expressions. This allows the player to feel the emotion of what the story is attempting to get across. It is a story told through visuals rather than text and dialogue, giving players a sense of experiencing something alongside the brothers instead of experiencing it passively. Despite neither brother speaking any dialogue, their personality comes through almost immediately because they each interact with the environment and NPCs in specific ways. This does a great job of giving players a sense of their character rather than anything telling them how their characters are.
The gameplay is fairly simple; players control both brothers using the analog sticks for movements and use triggers to perform actions specific to each brother. Players will move the brothers at the same time, often needing to coordinate movement to solve a puzzle or continue progressing through an area. Much of the puzzles in the game will revolve around the older brother using his strength to maneuver the younger brother to a out of reach spot to open a new path. For instance: since the younger brother is too short to reach a ledge, the older brother will give him a boost up the ledge. Then the younger brother will kick down a rope that the older brother can climb up. Then there are puzzles using the younger brother’s small stature to squeeze through bars that the older brother is too big to move past. One puzzle in the mountain has the younger brother slipping through bars to steal a key from a guard to release a trapped troll. Once the troll is free when the older brother pulls a lever (that only he is strong enough to use), the guard runs in with his club chasing the younger brother. Now the younger brother will need to lure the guard into the cage, so the older brother can pull the lever to trap the guard in the cage while the younger brother slips through the bars without catching the decapitating end of the guard’s club.
Puzzles in the game are actually pretty smart featuring clever solutions that players should get fairly quickly. What the gameplay excels at is creating a grand sense of adventure as the brothers will venture through some terrifically whimsical locales. One instance has them piloting a hang glider using their weight to steer past cliffs and rocks to reach a castle without shifting the brothers along the hang glider’s bar. The game does a great job of adding in puzzle based fights that increase the sense of danger in the brothers’ adventure. There is a specific puzzle that involves a dark cliff that is particularly delightful. The only issue with the controls is that since the player moves both brothers at the same time using both analog sticks, there is a tendency when brothers cross the wrong path for the controls to be a bit confusing. This can cause death rather easily, but the game is good at check pointing, so it is not too terrible.
Graphically, the game has some hugely impressive environments that do a great job of creating scale through various benches along the way. When players have the brothers sit on these benches, it shows them how huge the areas they are in actually are. While the environments are usually eye catching, the character models are a bit awkward. Even if the brothers have a distinct style to them, the character models in the game have this bizarre look to them. It is in this weird space where they look cartoony but also have too much realism to them. It causes them to occupy this space of being too realistic to be cartoony and too cartoony to be realistic. This becomes a bigger problem later in the game when an NPC is introduced that plays a pivotal role in the game. There are also some frame rate and texture issues that hurt the look of the game. Another thing that A Tale of Two Sons really has going for it is an amazing soundtrack. The music mirrors the tone the story sets perfectly. It manages to capture the whimsy, danger and emotion of the game. Also, its main theme is hugely memorable.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons has been compared by some to thatgamecompany’s Journey. That is not an unwarranted comparison, there are plenty of similarities between the two games. Both tell emotionally resonant stories through visuals with beautiful soundtracks. Yet Brothers has more traditional game elements and visually there are some issues. However, if that comparison helps convince people to check out Brothers then that is great because despite some minor flaws, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons delivers a powerful experience that gamers should definitely play.