Fun, core gameplay; weapon and ability upgrades extend life of the adventure; plenty of collectibles; co-op is compelling; great title for the whole family.
Short campaign; ugly visuals; lack of game modes; some wonky controls; lack of replayability and overall depth; linear level design feels too constricting.
I didn’t know what I was walking into when I fired up Disney Pixar’s latest title, Brave: The Video Game, an adventure that piggybacks off the newest animated feature with the same name. I think many of us already know that licensed games typically… oh what’s the word… “suck.” Yeah, that’s it– they usually suck. Fortunately, Pixar’s track record has been pretty decent in that area; Up was okay, and Toy Story 3 was pretty damn charming, and an awesome little sandbox game all on its own. Needless to say, going into it, I was skeptical of Brave . While the title ultimately lacks depth, it’s nonetheless a fun romp through Brave’s world, and it’s an excellent entry for kids looking for an engaging co-op experience.
Brave puts players in the shoes of leading heroine, Merida, an adolescent princess who desperately wishes to allude the death grip of marriage that’s being forced upon her by her mother Queen Elinor. In a desperate attempt to alter her fate, she seeks out a local witch who casts a mysterious spell upon her. Regrettably, the effects aren’t exactly what Merida expects, and in turn a curse is placed upon her entire family. Thus, Merida must work to reverse the magic, and that’s where the game picks up.
Though the story isn’t all that compelling, it’s noticeably more interesting than its movie counterpart. In a rather peculiar move, the game doesn’t actually follow the events of the film, but rather reimagines them to a certain extent, and tells it to the audience in a somewhat different light. Merida, however, is much like she appears in the film: tough, rash, independent, and these qualities are all depicted well in combat, which is where you’ll spend most of your time.
Gameplay is straightforward, but enjoyable for the most part. Controlling Merida is a breeze and is, simply put, fun, as you’ll mash more buttons than a newbie playing Smash Bros. Equipped with a bow and sword, Merida can take down baddies up close or from afar; both work pretty well and do just enough to keep combat mostly interesting. Sword swinging packs a certain punch, and firing off an arrow or two feels accurate, thanks to some pretty decent controls. Of course, aiming isn’t always picture perfect, and I fired more than my share of misguided projectiles due to the less than stellar targeting system. Toward the end of my journey, I found myself grumbling and cursing under my breath each time an aerial enemy made its way onto the screen. It almost felt like Brave’s targeting simply refused to work whenever I had to take down a monster that wasn’t grounded. And trust me, there were plenty of flying foes, and thus there were almost plenty flying controllers across my living room in response.
Aside from that, gameplay has a bit more depth than just the apparent hack and slash goodness. Weapons and abilities can be upgraded, enemies possess particular elemental weaknesses to consider, and alternate paths are spread throughout. Despite this being first and foremost a kids’ game, it has plenty of features found in more mature, expansive titles, so it’s nice to see developer Behaviour Interactive take Brave seriously. I could’ve done with some sort of leveling system, more combos, and equipment– but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.
All in all, gameplay is fast and furious, and focuses on fun above all else. In doing so, however, it also takes a few shortcuts, such as keeping stages extremely linear in design. To make up for this, though, there’s a plethora of hidden gems you can find throughout your adventure. Unlike many other games of this ilk, Brave is actually rather chock-full of collectibles, and of course the incorporation of a somewhat unconventional cooperative mode doesn‘t hurt matters either. A second player can join Merida at any time in the form of a mystical wisp-like creature and help her toward her goal. The kicker is the second player has an infinite amount of lives. While this seems odd upfront, it actually makes a good amount of sense given the game’s audience. I can see this as a perfect way for a parent to play alongside their son or daughter, without having to worry about stints of overwhelming frustration every time the second player dies.
Where things aren’t so great is in the graphics department. Sure, they’re far from the worst graphics you’ve seen, but they’re also not the strongest of this generation. Textures are muddy, clipping issues become annoying, and animations can get a tad wonky. Fortunately, the color palette used is fairly vibrant, which helps keep the ol’ eyes stimulated throughout the short campaign, and what a short campaign it is– clocking in at around four hours. I understand this is a kids’ game, but a handful of hours hardly seems to justify a $50 price tag. But to make up for this four hour adventure, we’re given an archery minigame, and the incentive to play through the campaign more than once in order to fully outfit Merida with upgrades. Shamefully, the only way to achieve a fully maxed out character is to replay the game more than a few times, which sort of seems a little cheap.
The main problem though, whether Brave’s being played solo or through co-op, is the game just isn’t all that deep. At its center, it’s a child’s game with many “adult game” features like upgrades, puzzles, and an assortment of enemies that require some thought to take down due to the aforementioned elemental system. But, the linearity of each level, lack of moves ,and replayability hinder the experience, as does the absence of additional modes of play. But even still, Brave: The Video Game is a fun time, especially if you’re looking for something the whole family can get into. It’s an intelligent kids’ game that has more features than you might expect. The combat is entertaining, there are a good number of collectibles, and it does a nice job of weaving in both the sights and sounds of the film. I’d say, overall, this is a winner in the land of licensed games.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.