HIGH Same great visual storytelling as before.
LOW Original glitches are still present.
WTF What happened on the giants’ battlefield?
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was first released in 2013 and Brad’s original review is what convinced me to play it the first time around. Since then, Brothers has been released on numerous platforms and is now finally making its way to the Nintendo Switch. This time, the release sees a significant addition – two-player, cooperative gameplay!
Brothers is the story of two siblings whose mother died at sea. Now, their father has become ill and the local apothecary sends the pair out to find the healing water of life. The entire story is told non-verbally, through gestures and facial expressions.
The graphics remain the same as they were in 2013 — slightly outdated, but still charming. Even without text or speech, the story is conveyed in such a way that the story basics are understood and allows players to fill in the larger gaps. I enjoyed the narrative the first time around, and it still holds up on additional playthroughs.
With the most recent release, a two-player mode has been added to Brothers. Prior releases required one player to control both brothers simultaneously – one brother per control stick, plus a trigger button for completing actions. This is still the suggested way to play, but gamers wishing to ask a friend or family member to join them on the journey now have the option. Each player gets their own controller, and the controls remain simple – a single joystick for movement, and a single button for interactions.
I played through the entire campaign with my son, and verbal communication became a huge part of an experience that relies on non-verbal storytelling. While I knew what would happen in advance and remembered the basic tasks we needed to complete, it was great listening to my son suggest solutions and offer advice on what we should do next. It’s a fantastic experience to share, and my guess is that it would be even more engaging for two people who have never played it before. Two-player co-op is a welcome addition to Brothers.
In addition to the fantastic co-op mode, there are a couple other nice additions – an art gallery and director’s commentary. The art gallery contains original sketches next to images of the in-game scenes. The director’s commentary is a video playthrough with director Josef Fares offering insights. The 10 minutes I watched were informative. However, both the video and art gallery should only be viewed after completing the game, as both provide numerous spoilers.
As great as the experience remains, Brothers isn’t without problems. The first issue I noticed were the character shadows. The game has superbly designed locales and wonderfully animated characters, but the characters’ shadows pull a Peter Pan and detach from their hosts! This is most noticeable when the two brothers are climbing a cliff or shimmying along an edge, as their shadows could often be found awkwardly sprawled out on an opposite cliffside across a gorge! It’s a minor issue that detracts from the aesthetic of an otherwise-beautiful looking game.
Unfortunately there’s a larger issue that remains from the original 2013 release. Near the end of the second chapter, we arrived at a location where a troll lifts a gate for us to advance. However, when we passed the troll, she disappeared, along with the gate! This also prevented us from passing the next obstacle in our path. We restarted from the last checkpoint, completed the same tasks, and again met the vanishing troll.
I don’t recall having any issues when I originally played Brothers, but a quick online search revealed six-year-old videos and discussions about the very same glitch we experienced. The only way to continue was to restart the entire chapter. It appears that players also experienced similar glitches in other areas of the campaign. Fortunately, we finished without any other difficulties, but it’s unfortunate that glitches from the original release remain intact.
Despite the glitches, the addition of true, two-player co-op makes it a fantastic adventure to share. I found Brothers to be a hidden gem when it was first released, and that still holds true today.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Starbreeze Studios and published by 505 Games. It is currently available on Switch. A version was released earlier on PS4 and XBO, but those only contain the singleplayer mode. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 3 hours of play were devoted to the cooperative multiplayer mode, and the game was completed. Beyond a quick check of the controls, zero hours of play were spent in single-player mode.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Mild Language, and Violence. From the ESRB’s website, the mild language is found within the commentary video – the game itself has no dialogue. Brothers contains the deaths of various characters, a battlefield with rivers of blood, and a scene of attempted suicide. There are also some mythical creatures that may scare younger gamers. Teens will be fine, but parents should probably play with kids, and it should probably be avoided for the youngest of gamers.
Colorblind Modes: There no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The story is told completely with visuals, using character gestures and facial expressions. The two brothers do communicate with a fictional language, but it doesn’t include gameplay clues or other aspects of the story. Menu text size can’t be changed. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable. Controls do vary in single and multiplayer modes.
When he does find time to play, Brian’s preferred games of choice are platformers, beat-‘em-ups, or a good adventure game.He still enjoys the retro gaming scene, could talk about the Nintendo 64 more than he might like to admit, and misses playing in actual arcades. Brian also gets to pass on his love of gaming, as his oldest son is just now starting to join the fun.
As for that GameBoy - it’s sitting in Brian’s nightstand, waiting patiently for four AA batteries.