Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review

Every time I leave a movie theater, there’s a certain feeling that washes over me. It’s one of reverence: while still processing what I’ve seen and deciding whether or not I enjoyed it, I maintain an appreciation and respect for the work and its creators. The more I enjoy a movie, the stronger this feeling is — sometimes to the point that I want to watch it again, dissect every section for references and themes, and give myself a full understanding of the film.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is the last video game I thought would replicate this feeling. Sure, I had heard great things, but most of them had been about the incredible and unique control scheme. I had no idea what kind of tale I was about to be told, but my entire existence is better for it. Brothers is an absolute gem of a game, the type of game that lasts the blink of an eye but leaves an eternal impression.

The world of Brothers is brimming with life and wonder, filled with incredible backdrops and lush, natural environments. The dangers of this world aren’t apparent at first, the first “enemy” I recall encountering is an angry dog, but as the game goes on there are plenty of obstacles to tackle. What I love most about this world is the marriage between realism and fantasy; the game starts in a village perfectly fitting  for an Irish moor, but the game soon introduces giants, trolls, and mystical plants in a way that melds seamlessly into the setting. Nothing feels out of place; if I saw it during my travels, I felt it belonged there.

Oh, the control scheme! The highly lauded controls were even more unique than I had anticipated. I controlled both brothers at the same time; the left stick and trigger controlled the older boy, while the right side controlled the younger. The only actions I had available were movement and one action (that action being dependent on where the brother stood), but those two were all I’d need. There was a small learning curve, but once familiarity set in it became be no trouble at all.This dual-control scheme allowed for some of the most mind-bending puzzle solutions I’ve ever experienced. At one point the brothers tie a rope around their waists so they are connected. I was confused, not knowing the reason for it, until I started to climb the wall in front of me and immediately realized what I’d have to do. Multiple times throughout Brothers I gasped or shouted in delight upon figuring out what to do, as some solutions require total out-of-the-box thinking.

Even the achievements are well thought out. At one point I found a pack of black bunnies avoiding a single white bunny as they ran around an unused fire pit. I had one of the brothers pick up the white bunny, walk him to the fire pit, dip him in soot, and voila! The white bunny was now black, the rest of the pack accepted him, and I got a notification for 20 achievement points. I love that kind of innovative thinking.

As wonderful as the entire game is, the time from when the brothers reach their destination to when the end credits roll is some of the most powerful storytelling I’ve ever witnessed in a game. Everything that happened had me on the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to come next. Most interesting about this is that there’s zero combat during this time (and combat throughout the game is more puzzle-based, as it is); I fought no enemies, I saw no danger, I just played through the game until the end, and I could not get enough. Everything about the end of this game shines, making it an easy recommendation.

Perhaps what makes the end, and for that matter the entire game, so powerful is its ability to present emotional storytelling with no voice acting whatsoever. The language of these people is closer to Simlish than English, yet I understood everything these characters wanted me to understand. There are cutscenes, some of them crucial, but do not think that the story can be learned from afar; this is a game that demands your attention, but it can make those demands on the basis of its quality.

I’ve never played a game like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. I’ve played games with great stories, I’ve played games where I control two characters at once, but none of them kept my mind racing after completion like this. That moment of reverence and dissection normally saved for the walk out of a movie theatre followed me from my office into my bed, through my sleep, and carried on into the next few days.

I can’t stop thinking about Brothers, but you know what? I don’t want to stop thinking about it, either.


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Author: Jason Fanelli View all posts by
Jason lives and breathes gaming. Legend tells that he taught himself to read using Wheel of Fortune Family Edition on the NES. He's been covering this industry for three years, all with the Node, and you can see his ugly mug once a week on Hot Off The Grill.

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