This week I decided to check out some of the games I had laying around on Steam and had never gotten around to playing yet. Of these games my new favourite has to be Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It is an action adventure in which you control two characters at the same time. The characters have work together to solve the puzzles in the game, making this feel like a sad co-op were you don’t have any friends that want to play with you. The controls are very simple, each character has their own movement controls and one action button that has a different effect depending on the item or person interacted with. Having such simple controls was a good decision because moving two characters at the same time is surprisingly challenging! It reminded me of that game I used to play as a kid, where I’d fold my hands, twist them around and then try (and fail) to move the correct finger. When both characters where hanging from a cliff, It hurt my brain trying to get the correct character to let go so he could jump to the other side. This very often resulted in me either letting the wrong character plummet to his death or somehow letting go of both characters. It really surprised me how hard it was linking the correct character to the correct buttons in my mind and just manage the two characters moving around at the same time. The game itself wasn’t really complex, most puzzles could be solved very quickly and the route to progress was fairly linear. But because it was all very fast paced, this didn’t make the game boring. The game itself was beautiful, environments were spectacular and felt more and more alive further in the game. I also really liked that the game had benches that were scattered around that you could sit on and take some time to admire the scenery.
Brothers, a tale of two sons is a gimmicky game that doesn’t feel gimmicky. I think the reason for this is that it is a complete experience, the gameplay is solid and the game itself continued to surprise me in terms of settings and story (which was very well written in terms of character development). It was a true emotional journey through a unique world which left me speechless in the end.
The game was originally designed to be played with a controller but the version I played only had keyboard controls. Being a game developer, artist and gamer, I’m sensitive to rsi and have to take regular breaks while gaming and working to minimise pain later on. Having the controls for both characters on the keyboard caused me to cramp up horribly while playing, especially when keeping more than 4 buttons pressed constantly to get through puzzles, and reduced my game sessions to 30 minutes a day tops. I would have changed the control scheme for keyboard into either toggling the action buttons to on and off or let one of the characters be controlled by the mouse somehow. An option to put the controls back to controller instead of keyboard would have been nice too.
Spoiler, but I needed to include it
What really had me sobbing in the end was the fact that I had to use the controls of the older brother to get the little brother to swim (which he couldn’t do before) and pull the big levers. The action button suddenly represented the loss of the older brother and the personal growth of the younger brother. This was a really great use of the controls to convey a feeling to the player, giving the game a presence in the real world and would be something that I’d like to see more in games.