Please check out the video interview above with Josef Fares, game director of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and read my preview-ish thoughts below. This downloadable game is set to hit PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC in Spring 2012 courtesy of Starbreeze and 505 Games. I checked it out a few weeks ago and was really enamored with its art style and gameplay. The controls are simple, but used in a unique and compelling fashion. In some ways, it reminded me of a cross between Ico and Heavy Rain, but with a refreshing originality that was all its own.
Brothers tells the tale of two brothers (duh!). The pair lost their mother in a tragic
bass fishing drowning accident, while their father is suffering from a mysterious disease. The two set out to find a cure for their ailing pappy. Aside from those basics, much of the game’s story is implied to the player instead of stated outright. The language in the game is fictitious, though loosely based on Lebanese. Gamers are meant to infer and interpret what’s happening through body language and cutscenes. With the ham-fisted storytelling that’s prominent in pop culture, it was refreshing to see a game that encourages players to use their imaginations.
The game’s art has a distinct look, almost as if the graphics were meant to resemble a painting. The first level was like something you’d see in a fairytale book. I was told that the graphics change throughout the game, but retain that painterly look. At a glance, the art style reminded me a bit of Ico, with its soft hues and bright color palette.
Another facet of the game that reminded me of Ico, as well as Heavy Rain, was its simple controls.The left thumb stick controls the big brother, while the right thumb stick controls the little brother. Similarly, the left trigger causes the big brother to act, while the right trigger causes the little brother to act. It takes a few minutes to get used to controlling two characters at once, but after that it’s a snap. The simple controls are meant to welcome gamers of all skill levels, but also to encourage experimentation. Anyone will be able to play this game, but the experience could be very different depending on the player’s imagination.
At its heart, Brothers is an old-school PC adventure game. Exploration and puzzle-solving are the orders of the day. The brothers interact differently with the various objects in the game’s world. The objects can be used with other objects in the environment to trigger different reactions. Gamers are meant to experiment — mixing and matching different objects with different puzzles. The game has a lot of achievements that are based on experimentation. I’m not allowed to reveal the precise details of what I saw, but I can tell you that it pays to use both brothers to interact with different objects and see how they react to other objects in the world. When I brought an object from one puzzle and placed it in an object from another, I unlocked a gratifying achievement.
While I enjoyed the game’s art style, I was fascinated by the gameplay. It’s simple and unique at the same time. I love how inventive it is — so different from the balls-and-guns games that dominate the market. Fares is a movie director by trade, but also a hardcore gamer (we had a great chat about 16-bit JRPGs). Considering how different this game is, it’s no surprise that it’s coming from an outsider — someone with a different take on what a videogame can be. While I have no idea how the finished product will end up, the brief portion I saw of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was really compelling — refreshingly inventive and imaginative in its simplicity. I can’t wait to play more!