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On the Radar: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

by on May 24, 2013

What’s the skinny? Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a unique puzzle-adventure game that sees two nameless siblings embark on a quest to find a magical fountain that will heal their sick father. It’s also from Starbreeze Studios, the bods behind the Chronicles of Riddick games, The Darkness, and last year’s Syndicate remake.

Just the facts, please: It might not be the type of game for which Starbreeze have been known in the past, but Brothers represents a welcome change of direction for the Swedish studio. Their titles have always been celebrated for their aesthetics – the use of lighting in Escape From Butcher Bay and Assault on Dark Athena being prime examples – but less so for their gameplay. The Darkness had its share of detractors, and the Syndicate remake was (perhaps not unfairly) branded shallow and unnecessary.

What better way to combat a growing horde of haterz and naysayers than a complete change of tactics? It was a philosophy that would lead Starbreeze along a very interesting path – and ultimately to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, something radically different to anything we’d have expected.

For a start, it’s neither violent nor tonally dark (although it’s certainly not all sweetness and light). With aesthetics reminiscent of Fable’s fairytale veneer, the world of Brothers is bright and colourful, but hides a depth of emotion below the surface. You’ll control both siblings, aptly known as Big Brother and Little Brother, on the same controller. The left stick moves Big, and the right moves Little, and all interactions are handled with the left and right triggers. Obviously, everything is contextual and so experimentation and exploration is key to progress in a game that has no tutorial and no HUD of any kind.

Puzzles will be mostly environmental, featuring switches and leavers, pulleys and lifts – and the brothers will have to work together as they venture out into the world. They both have their uses; for example, Little Brother can access certain areas because of his small stature, while Big Brother is stronger and able to pull stuck levers or carry his little bro across treacherous areas.

Should we be excited? Absolutely. The potential for Brothers to administer an emotional pummelling to your soft squishy insides is immense. Despite the subject matter of their previous games, Starbreeze have proven themselves capable of producing emotionally-affecting tales (who could forget the gut-punch that was Jenny’s death in The Darkness?), and just from the screenshots and trailer you can see how important the bond between the brothers is. Having played a little myself, I can all but guarantee some genuinely emotional moments in the narrative.

There’s also the involvement of Lebanon-born filmmaker Josef Fares, whose Swedish-made films have garnered him a great deal of respect in the European indie circuit. His 2005 film, Zozo (about a young boy separated from his family during the Lebanese civil war) won the Nordic Council Film Prize in 2006 – so it’s safe to say that he knows a thing or two about crafting an engaging narrative and conveying emotion through visuals.

It’s always refreshing when a game eschews bombastic violence in favour of doing something a little less mainstream and a little more daring – it’s just sometimes a shame that it’s left to downloadable titles and indie games to lead the way in innovation. Thatgamecompany’s Journey is a prime example and, while Brothers shares little common ground with it, the sentiment at the heart of both games is similar.

Martin’s upcoming preview will reveal more about how the unique control scheme works and just how emotionally invested the story could be, but until then rest assured: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is shaping up to be a real gem.

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For more information, follow Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons on Facebook and Twitter.