Available on PSN, Steam, Xbox Live – $14.99
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an experience – a joyful, awe inspiring, heartbreaking experience. As the title suggests, it is the story of two brothers who must find a tree that holds healing water in order to save their ill father. Together, they journey through a Middle Earth-like setting, meeting various beings that want to hinder or help them. While this may sound like any of a thousand other quest games, there is so much more to this game then that simple summary.
Brothers’ director Josef Fares’s own childhood heavily influenced this coming of age story. Fares grew up in war-torn Lebanon and witnessed the kind of violence and bloodshed that forcibly turns a boy into a man.
That is the case for the two protagonists of the game, Naia and Naiee. The beginning of the game starts off relatively light-hearted, with shades of darkness seeping in around the edges. As I am trying to remain spoiler-free, I’ll spare the details, but suffice to say, when the darkness comes, it’s heartbreaking. The boys mature as they are exposed to heady subject matter like suicide, torture and war, and I felt myself growing concerned as to how they could possibly go back to their old lives after all that they have experienced.
The gameplay is also very well handled. You control both characters at the same time, using the left stick to move the older brother Naia, and the right stick to move the younger brother Naiee. At first, this gameplay mechanic is jarring; it was unlike anything I had ever played before, but slowly I began to understand this choice. These brothers have an incredible bond, and when at some parts of the game you lose the ability to control one for various reasons, you physically feel the sense of loss and desperation that the character must feel, and you long to reunite with your other half.
Another fantastic choice is the lack of any real language in the game; the characters speak in a fictional tongue, causing their behavior to create the story, which it does beautifully. Not once did I desire that a character start speaking in English—their feelings and motives were so clear that dialogue would only have added unnecessary baggage to the story.
This game is special. It gripped my emotions and made me feel something akin to heart-break, but it also made me hold my breath in wonder. These boys don’t only go on a depressing journey and learn what it means to experience death in it’s many horrifying forms, they also experience giddy thrills and heart pounding wonder that you feel along with them—all to the sound of one of the most beautiful scores I have ever heard in a game.
After I finished Brothers, I couldn’t shake it—it stayed with me all through the next day as I pondered its various meanings. Very few games have sparked that reaction in me.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is almost two years old, so it may seem odd that I am reviewing it now, but it is the kind of game that defies the of-the-moment release hype that accompanies the big franchises. It is a time-less little gem that needs to be brought up now and again, lest it be forgotten in the midst of far more marketed titles.
I heartily recommend this game; it may take a minute to adjust to the controls, but when everything clicks, you will be in for an experience you will never forget.