Directed by Josef Fares
Developed by Starbreeze Studio
Published by 505 Games
Platform: XBox 360, Xbox One, PC, PS3, PS4, iPhone, and Android
Time to Completion: 3 hours
What starts as a somewhat sad and standard fairytale grows emotionally
enriched by the second chapter and becomes dark and devastatingly
beautiful by the end. The characters in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons are
memorable, the soundtrack haunting, and the story epic. What I
originally thought to be a simple but fun game was, in fact, destined to
find an unexpected home among some of my favorite classics.
Brothers was a small budget game release in 2013 that delivered gigantic
quality. It was film director Josef Fares' first videogame project and
he has not disappointed. Originally from Lebanon, Fares moved to Sweden
as a child, where he gained much of his inspiration for what would
become the world of Brothers.
The best descriptor I've found thus far is that Brothers is a single
player co-op, allowing you to control each brother simultaneously as
they work together to achieve each goal. This Adventure game takes place
in a breathtaking fantasy world strongly influenced by Swedish myth and
fairytales. Brothers successfully evokes the nostalgia of games like
Zelda: A Link to the Past combined with the 3D emotional experience of
Brothers begins with a flashback as Little Brother visits his mother's
grave, recalling how he was unable to save her from drowning in a storm
at sea. This foundation of Little Brother's fear of the water and lack
of self-esteem is carried throughout the story, creating ample
opportunity for his relationship with Big Brother to grow through
The loss of their mother places extra urgency on the illness of their
father, made apparent in the first few moments of gameplay, and the boys
set out quickly to find a way to save him. Over the course of their
travels, they meet many interesting characters and traverse countless
beautiful but treacherous terrains.
I played through Brothers on a PS4. The controls themselves are very
simple, with only one button (L2 or R2 for interactions) and one
joystick (as movement) to control each brother. Though simple in
concept, the execution of the controls was often extremely satisfying in
a very challenging way. At times I felt like I was rubbing my belly and
patting my head and I greatly enjoyed the challenge of engaging and
keeping track of both brothers at the same time.
As an aid to the complicated nature of controlling multiple characters
simultaneously, the camera frequently puts each brother on the same side
of the screen as his corresponding joystick. In spite of this, sometimes
the brothers switched sides. Therefore, making sure that I intentionally
kept them correctly aligned helped immensely with the quality of
The game itself is divided up into chapters. Each new chapter unveils a
fresh and vastly different part of the world of Brothers, creating a
strong sense of epic wonder and awe.
Throughout the story, many of the people, animals, and objects are
interactive, with each brother reacting differently to various stimuli.
All of the available game trophies revolve around this mechanic, using
achievements to tell small side stories through interacting with the
environment. Some are strikingly subtle: knocking on the sides of
cauldrons and attempting to open locked doors. Some moments are funny:
sniffing smelly outhouses and pushing the rocking chair of an old woman.
Then there are more gut-wrenching interactions that easily render the
player speechless; I will leave you to find those for yourself in the
interest of both authenticity and avoiding spoilers.
For me, one of the most memorable attributes of Brothers is its
striking lack of both understandable language and instructive game
markers. Conversations instead use both an Arabic inspired non-language
and body language to engage the player emotionally rather than verbally
as they navigate and interpret the story. Hints for where to go and how
to solve puzzles are cleverly laid out within the environment rather
than guided through unnatural markers and waypoints. Because of this,
much of the game feels unbelievably organic and authentic. The
innovative decisions of Josef Fares, though rooted mainly in budget
limitations, had the unintentional side-effect of creating one of the
greatest emotional impacts a game has ever had on me. The story bypassed
my logical brain, and burrowed straight into the nonverbal part of my
For such a small budget with a group of mostly new game developers,
Brothers truly delivers something spectacular. I got far more than I
bargained for when I picked up this game for my collection and I highly
recommend it to any gamer looking to satisfy their need for a short but
epic, emotional adventure. Brothers is an odyssey in its own right and
a storytelling experience I will not soon forget. 9/10!
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is available on XBox 360, Xbox One, PC, PS3, PS4, iPhone, and Android.