A man clinging to life, his two sons desperate to cure their ailing father are left with but one option. They must set out upon a journey to find and bring back the “Water of Life” as they come to rely on one another to survive. One must be strong where the other is weak, brave where the other is fearful, they must be… Brothers.
This is the background to this story driven downloadable Xbox live title from 505 Games. You need to guide the two brothers through the game to try and save the life of their father. The game is described as a single player coop game. The one thing I did not know is that the game was developed in collaboration with the award winning Swedish film director Josef Fares.
This is a single player game with a top down view and a unique control scheme. Each brother is controlled with one of the thumb sticks. They move independently from one another and the player needs to use both of them to solve the puzzles in order to progress. The mood in the game feels somewhat serious throughout. The music does a good job of creating that atmosphere. The environments in the game look beautiful and there is a lot of variation in the level design. There are even areas where you can have a seat and simply enjoy the view.
The game feels like a Fairy tale Adventure and you have no idea what is going to happen next. The puzzle designs are also unique and challenging at the same time without becoming too frustrating. Each brother reacts differently to each situation and you cannot progress without using both of them. The puzzles are designed for both brothers and the fun is in figuring out what each of them needs to do. The game designers want you to care about the brothers and I feel they have done a very good job with this. By the end you really do care for them.
With the brothers having lost their mother at a young age they are determined to save their father after he has fallen ill. They take him to what I assume is a doctor and he shows them where they can get the only thing that can save their father. They set out on a quest to find the “Water of Life” which is basically on the other side of their world. Due to the brothers reacting differently to each puzzle and to the NPC’s you will need to experiment with each one to get the information or reaction you need in order to progress.
The story takes place within a fantasy world with suitably ugly, fantastical and amazing creatures and environments. From your hilltop home where you are tormented by a bully, to the forest at night where you need to get through a den of wolves, to a castle where you meet giant creatures, the levels are interesting and always changing. This helps to keep the game engaging and makes you want to play through it.
The game uses the Unreal 3 Engine. As you move through the levels you can’t help but admire the backdrops and at times I actually stopped to look at it for a minute. The environments feel as if they were designed to enhance this style of gameplay. There was never a moment where I got stuck or struggled due the environment. In fact, it’s designed in such a way to help you get to your goal without having to run around for ages trying to find where you need to go next. About half way through the game, I ventured away from my goal and found an extra activity. This actually unlocked an achievement and made me wonder how many others I missed, how many other little interactions there was that I missed out on between. The character animation is also good. The characters move in a believable way. The developers used motion capture the get all the in game animations. In addition to writing and directing Josef Fares also performs the motion capture for the game. The Non-Player Characters are also animated very well and this contributes to the overall experience. Even though the characters never actually speak English you always know what is going on. You are never left to guess for yourself and it never leaves you confused about where you are going or what you are doing. It’s almost strange to play a nonviolent game where you only use the environment and the help of your brother throughout the whole game. The controls are very simple but challenging to master, especially at the beginning when the brothers need to move in different directions.
The game is only about 4 hours long but the designers insist that the length of the game is not important. They say they have endeavoured to create a game where the gameplay, levels and puzzles are never recycled simply to add to the playing time. They wanted to keep the player guessing about what’s around the next corner so that you never know what’s coming. All of this created a level of immersion I haven’t encountered in many other games. I do however feel that the game is a little too short as I reached the end just as I was getting good at controlling the characters. There is also no replay-value once the credits rolled. The emotion they make you feel and the constant surprises will not be the same on your second play through.
This is a excellent puzzle game with unique controls and characters you end up caring about. Watch out because this game might make you “feel”. At R160 this game won’t break the bank and at just 660MB it should not be a problem for most people to download. If you enjoy puzzle games this is a must have and with its short length will not require a lot of your time to finish.