Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Review)

Brothers is a short, emotional adventure game with the unique twist for the time of its original release, of controlling two characters at the same time with one controller.

This new Switch release adds the option for true co-op play with a friend for the first time. The ability the Switch has for same device co-op means this is the perfect sort of title to take advantage of it, but also isn’t….. I’ll explain why in my review of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons on the Nintendo Switch.

Watch the video version of this review

I first played Brothers back in 2013 on the Xbox and have to admit – as with many games along my gaming journey, I played it for 10 minutes and dismissed it. Almost instantly frustrated by the single player co-op gimmick and had no time to waste on such things when instant gratification from FIFA or Call of Duty were available.

I’d forgotten about the game until the publisher popped up and offered it for review and here we are.

Brothers starts dark and descends from there as the opening scene features your mother suffering her demise, drowning out at sea whilst the younger brother helplessly watches on. Not only is this an immediate shock but also nicely sets up some gameplay mechanics for the younger brother for later in the game.

The main story begins with you controlling the brothers – the left stick moving the older brother with ZL as his action button and the right stick and ZR for the younger one, as you negotiate a wagon down a hill carrying your sick father to the village doctor.

The map to the cure!

This serves as a little taster of what’s to come in terms of same controller teamwork, where you have no choice but to move both brothers at the same time, hold down both action buttons to grasp the cart and so on.

Once at the doctors, it is explained through Sims-like gibberish chat, that the only chance your remaining parent has at survival is to journey into the mysterious lands to retrieve a cure. Armed with only a map, you set off on your journey. You can show this map to people you come across on your travels who will point you in the direction you need to go next – but the path is fairly linear anyway, so it’s not exactly a mechanic that is needed.

The journey to the cure will take around 3 to 4 hours of platforming and puzzles, most of which are centred around how the brothers can work together. From the elder being able to boost the younger one up to unreachable ledges, to the younger having the ability to slip between narrow gaps like fences and gates, to unlock them allowing the elder to pass. There will be times where you have to negotiate some simultaneous puzzles, such as both turning a crank handle together or in some of the trickiest sections, climbing a wall whilst tethered at the waist by a rope.

One of the trickier parts of the game

Generally, the puzzles are never eventually difficult to work out and whilst some begin to repeat mechanically, I enjoyed the slightly easier pace of the game, allowing you to really focus more on the story and journey, rather than getting stuck and frustrated.

That said, the closing act of the game was a complete head-scratcher, but more on that in a bit.

Graphically, very little has been done here from the original release. Don’t be expecting a remaster with updated graphics. What is here is pretty basic in terms of textures and lighting, but sometimes the camera will pull back and reveal a really nice vista that is just crying out for modern water effects or some dynamic lighting. Many times it just felt this game could have been remastered, but with that said, it’s by no means terrible and despite a few random moments of slow down, generally it runs fine.

The music in the game was nice and whimsical at times, conveying emotion where needed and upping the tempo when the action heats up. Personally, though, I hate it when games use gibberish instead of full voice acting. With that said, it does allow for the movement of the characters combined with the music to get those emotional moments across, where perhaps a budget voice actor would have ruined the moment, so I’ll let it pass.

Now the big addition for this port as mentioned is the co-op play. Previous versions never permitted you to play 2 players with a second controller as the gameplay gimmick was having to control both brothers at the same time with one controller. This option obviously still remains on Switch and I played a lot of the game with my pro controller, but I really wanted to test the co-op out too, so roped in my girlfriend to play through the second half of the game with me.

There is a big warning when you start the game that whilst co-op has been added, Brothers was always intended as a single player game and by playing co-op, you will receive an altered experience. Now that doesn’t mean the developers have done anything at all to the gameplay in terms of balancing or modifying the game to accommodate 2 players, they just mean that it will be infinitely easier to control 1 character due to how simple the part of each character is individually.

A fun flying section, would have liked more of these!

But, my girlfriend isn’t particularly a hardcore gamer but loves puzzle games, so this was absolutely perfect for her as the controls were extremely simple, and she enjoyed that we had to work together to progress through the game. The only stumbling block is the end chapter of the game. I won’t spoil things – and if you have played this game before then you will know the bit I am talking about, but this just fundamentally broke the co-op play and pretty much left us at a standstill.

I had to look up the solution and I was not alone in getting stuck. I believe if I were playing this chapter with a single controller, I may have figured out the puzzle within a few minutes… but I’ll leave that with you guys to discover.

So in summary, Brothers is a really enjoyable way to spend a few hours. We blasted through the game in a rare child-free morning and I have also spent another few hours going back through. With that said, it’s not a game that lends itself to repeated plays, so bear that in mind. There are in-game achievements which you may want to 100% complete, but once you have seen the puzzle solutions and of course the story arc, then there is little reason to play this again. At £10 and $15, I’ll let you decide if a 3-4 hour adventure is worth your money personally.

The co-op mode is a really nice addition and this would be the perfect game to play through with a non-gaming partner or even a younger child – though do be aware this story is really quick dark emotionally, so please ensure they would be able to handle that.

But overall, I enjoyed my time with Brothers on the Nintendo Switch and would recommend if you fancy 3-4 hours of chilled out gaming.

SCORE: 6.5/10

  • RELEASE DATE: July 12th 2019
  • PRICE: $9.99 / £7.99
  • PUBLISHER: Cybernate
  • DEVELOPER: Surprise Attack
  • eShop Link

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