Wednesday, May 29

Review: Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons [Nintendo Switch eShop]


At this point in the Switch’s lifespan cooperative puzzle games have become pretty common, though I can’t say I’ve played anything quite like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons to this point. Originally designed to be a single-player experience, with co-op only newly-added, the nature of the puzzles is a little different and where trying to tackle controlling two characters at once is normally the afterthought here if anything having two players may remove a little bit of its challenge and charm. That said, though the journey they’ll embark upon won’t take you more than a handful of hours it’s a pretty touching one that I found engaging.


Motivated by the need to obtain the ingredients necessary to save their sick father (and a bit traumatized by already witnessing their mother drowning) the title brothers are on a mission. In their way are obstacles in the form of humans, animals, and some tricky terrain. Though there are challenges here, and you’ll need to work out how the two need to work together in each situation to progress, the puzzles in general feel both diverse and pretty natural in their solutions. For sure you’ll use certain techniques more than once in some cases, but where many of these games take place in more sterile or set environments the fact this all takes place out in the world makes for a nice change of pace.


Taking further advantage of being out in the world, there are actually quite a lot of small touches in the game that I love. When encountering other people or certain situations, separate from the puzzles and solutions, there are opportunities to interact and each brother will typically do so in a different way. In particular, I enjoyed finding benches because it would reward me with a moment to take in the beauty of the environment within the game and pause for a moment to reflect. I think it’s elements like this, especially when you can then choose to pair the game experience with a Director’s commentary as well, that set the game apart and make it clear how much care was put into the overall experience, not just the mechanics.


In terms of downsides there’s no question that some elements of the visuals can look a bit dated, in particular details like shadows which can look a bit clunky. In no way does this detract from the experience, it just definitely shows its age in places. In terms of mechanics for the most part the simplicity of things, using each stick and the appropriate trigger to control the brothers, works well. That said, there are instances where things would feel a bit rough and you might miss grabbing something and die. Fortunately the bite-sized design of each area you work through minimizes any pain from this. There’s definitely an emphasis on experimentation so it isn’t always clear what you need to do right away, but again the scope of the world is always pretty limited in any situation so it typically doesn’t take long to work out what you’ll need to do to progress.


Whether played solo or with a friend Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons makes for a thoughtful and generally satisfying puzzle adventure. The world and its characters are generally endearing, the puzzles simply have a different and more organic feel than much of the competition, and though it may not be a long journey it also doesn’t overstay its welcome. Throw in a fair amount of heart all along the way and it’s well worth enjoying on Switch.

Score: 8

Pros:
  • Simply has a different overall feel than the majority of its competition, bringing more heart and story to the table on top of more real-world puzzles
  • Originally designed as a single-player experience solo play is a little less aggravating than you can find with other multiplayer-first titles
  • There are many small moments of joy in the interactions the brothers have with their world that encourage you to simply enjoy the experience

Cons:
  • Some aspects of the visuals certainly look dated
  • There are times when the simple controls will feel like they’re betrayed you, though thankfully you’ll never lose too much progress
  • Perhaps as a co-op game it may feel a bit too easy