The story for Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons begins on a low note. A young boy stands in front of a grave, and remembers how his mother drowned while he desperately struggled to save her. Wordlessly, we’re instantly connected with the boy, understanding his grief and his guilt. It’s because of this understanding that we immediately know why its so important for him, and his older brother, to try and find a way to save their only remaining parent when he falls ill.
But the father’s pressing ailment is temporarily forgotten as the brothers run through their idyllic, carefree village in a slightly extended tutorial sequence. During this, the basic game mechanics are adequately explained, and there’s enough time to get used to controlling each brother before being thrown into real danger. The game assigns them to a different analogue stick, which works surprisingly well for the most part. However, once the two switch sides on the screen we often lost control, our ancient monkey brains unable to immediately understand that the blob on the right was suddenly being controlled with our left hand. These simple controls are thoroughly explored throughout the game, offering plenty of different ways to make use of them that keeps the game feeling fresh and varied.
The real focus of the game though is the story and your interactions with the environment. As the characters themselves don’t speak English, it’s up to you to pay attention to the actions of the different characters, and to observe the world around you for clues on what exactly is going on. Concentrating on the story just a little more in this way has the effect of engrossing yourself further into the game world, setting up stronger emotional ties with the characters on screen.
Throughout the game, you’re regularly presented with death, and how people react to it. It’s both shocking and thought provoking whenever you come across it, whether it’s bodies hanged in the woods, a battlefield littered with giant corpses, or coming across a human sacrifice in progress. Death can be creepy, sickening and downright scary in the game, and the way the world reacts to it reflects this.
Brother’s story-telling strength is not only in giving death reverence, but also getting us to truly care about the characters in the game. The younger brother’s traumatic experience with his mother is dealt with in a fairly mature way over the course of the story that really helps us connect to the overarching narrative. As a game, it also succeeds in its task of delivering a single-player co-op experience, and while it may not be “this year’s Journey”, as ridiculous a concept as that is, it’s an emotional tale you don’t want to miss.