One of the more innovative games we checked out at E3 2013 was Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. The key mechanic is that the player controls both brothers at once, as viewed from a more-or-less top-down perspective. It's a little tough to wrap your mind around at first, but once you do, it is one of the more interesting games we saw this year.
We spoke at length with Josef Fares, the writer and creative energy behind the game, while we got hands-on with the title. The story is based on the two brothers wanting to find a cure to save their ailing father, and they must make their way through the storybook-esque world. While combat makes a brief appearance, the majority of the game – and all of our hands-on time – was an adventure. As the two brothers make their way through the world, they encounter a series of puzzles and must work together if they want to proceed.
Controlling the two brothers is something that takes some getting used to. The left thumbstick controls the movement of the big brother, and the right thumbstick controls the little brother. The triggers are the same, and pulling them makes the corresponding brother perform an action. For example, if the big brother is standing in water, he may splash some behind his neck to cool off. However, the two brothers have vastly different personalities, and the little one may simply splash the water in glee.
While the world has plenty of these little nuances that allow you to explore the brothers' personalities, you really need to use the two siblings together to solve the puzzles. One brother may need to leap on and hang from a rope to stop a mechanism that the other brother can climb on to proceed. In other cases, the two brothers must work in tandem to carry a long object around a maze-like path, or push a lever mechanism along a track. Each brother also has capabilities that you learn via gameplay. For example, the little brother can't climb tall ledges, so the bigger brother needs to give him a boost.
Fares mentioned many times that every puzzle and all of the content is single-use only, and nothing is to be repeated later in the game. This variation is key for the puzzles as well as the environments and NPCs. While the game could be considered short at only four to six hours long, Fares' thought was that the "game should be as long as it needs to be, not long for being long." The goal is to deliver a strong story to the player, with a special ending that has some parallels to the developer's life.
There were other nuances that stuck out. The camera smartly and subtly rotates to try and keep the big brother more on the left side of the screen, so you have an easier time controlling them. The camera can also be manually controlled by holding down the left bumper and then moving the left stick, but it's rarely needed and is useful for looking around. This means the control scheme takes little more than two thumbsticks and three buttons, and yet it doesn't feel limiting.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons was an unassuming title in a booth otherwise filled with bank heists, counter-terrorism ops, and survival against the undead. However, its simplistic control scheme belies its depth, and the game was easily one of the more interesting ones we saw on the show floor. For all of these reasons, the game garnered one of our nominations for Best of E3 2013, and it's easily one that people should keep an eye on.
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