Review: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (Switch)

An innovative classic comes to Switch.

By Andy Hoover. Posted 06/20/2019 10:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Beautiful marriage of storytelling and gameplay; emotionally resonant story; perfect pacing; great soundtrack; just about everything else
Poison Mushroom for...
Occasionally dated visuals; tired trigger fingers; well paced but short

Given that Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons first released to the world nearly six years ago, I’ll get to the point- it’s amazing. Not only is it a game you should play, it’s a game you should have already played. Games with great stories are common enough, as are games with innovative mechanics, but it’s rare to find a game that manages to meld its plot and mechanics into a cohesive whole that can only be experienced via the wonder of video games. Let’s delve a little deeper.

The story is simple enough: you play as two brothers who need to save their sick father by recovering a cure for the disease that has befallen him. This call to adventure sets the pair on a journey across a world equally inspired by fairy tales and fantasy epics. Some moments are lighthearted and whimsical, while others go to places some might find surprisingly bleak. So, in one scene you’ll be reuniting a cave troll with his previously imprisoned love, and in another you’ll be dismembering the corpses of dead giants in order to cross a blood-soaked battlefield. Purely through imagery and interaction, the game builds an amazing sense of the world around you and makes the whole experience feel quite epic. To say more would be to spoil the game, as each area serves as an interesting vignette moving the main thrust forward.

The real genius to the wordless storytelling, though, are the two main characters, whose gibberish language and amazing animations deliver a sense of characterization that most traditionally written and voiced games can only hope to dream of. Many characters and objects in the world can be interacted with by both characters, and the way they interact tells us so much. The older brother is obviously more mature and thoughtful, treating others with respect and generally acting with a sense of caution. The younger brother is brash, often being much more forward and constantly looking to amuse himself by being something of a pest to strangers. Often the older brother’s approach is more productive in their serious quest as their father’s potential savior, but the younger is a frequent source of entertainment and, sometimes, his approach actually proves more successful.

The duality of these characters carries over into the gameplay amazingly well. You control the older brother with the left analog stick and trigger while the younger of the two is controlled via the right side of your controller. Of course, the elder is stronger and better suited for certain tasks, but the younger brother’s smaller size and lighter weight makes it easier for him to access certain areas and accomplish specific objectives. This dynamic ultimately boils down to two simple inputs, movement with the analog sticks and interacting with things with the triggers, but the developers managed to find a plethora of creative scenarios that take advantage of these minimalist controls. Often this boils down to fairly simply puzzle solving and platforming, but the amount of variation and overall creativity is admirable.

There are a few minor issues as controlling two separate characters simultaneously takes some getting used to and the constant use of the ZR and ZL can actually make your trigger fingers somewhat tired. Regardless, this setup otherwise works well and even proves rather poignant towards the end of the game following an event that would be sinful to reveal here.

The visuals also hold up rather well, though Brothers’ 2013 origins unfortunately do show from time to time. The truism that solid art direction is most important generally carries the game as its imaginative world and scenarios generally look great with a somewhat cartoony look and atmospheric lighting. It all comes together best when viewing the word at a distance. However, a few small but noticeable issues do arise. Shadows generally are great and surprisingly realistic, however sometimes they simply appear where they shouldn’t or just act in a rather nonsensical way. Also, moments where the camera zooms in reveal dated character models and some rather weak textures. Thankfully, most of the game is experienced at a distance and the game’s many other strengths distract from these flaws.

While the look of Brothers has lost a bit of its luster over time, the audio is as strong as it has ever been. The soundtrack generally favors emotionally atmospheric tracks over bombastic anthems, but the compositions rise to the occasion when necessary. The end result is a selection of songs that play perfectly to the ebb and flow of the narrative, further driving home the dramatic point of each scene and ultimately the game as a whole. The voice acting is also surprisingly good — in spite of the fact it might as well be Simlish. The gibberish, as technically nonsensical as it might be, matches the cast of characters perfectly and drives home the emotional weight of each moment from beginning to end.

As this is a video game review, and thus a form of consumer advocacy as much as it is a critical evaluation of art, I can’t leave out the fact that Brothers is an exceptionally short game at about three hours long. You can add a little extra time by seeking every hidden objective and listening to the developer commentary, but the real story is indeed short. However, I’d also argue that it is pretty much the perfect length for the story being told. A perfectly paced three hours is much better than a fifty-hour meandering mess.

If you’ve already played Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, there isn’t necessarily anything different or special about the Switch version demanding another purchase and playthrough. However, having a modern masterpiece readily available at home or on the go isn’t really a bad thing either. For those who have managed to avoid the game since its release a generation ago, there’s no time like the present to experience such a phenomenal example of how video games can stand out as a unique approach to storytelling and entertainment in general. Brothers is really a must play game, so you’d best get around to it sooner rather than later.

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.

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