“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 (NIV)
Brothers. I have two of them and they are both older than I am. There is a certain bond that brothers share. Perhaps it comes from years of making each other miserable. When we were young, we fought often as brothers – but when the time came we would join together to face any crisis. Today as adults, we enjoy going on adventures that include golfing, skiing, and mountain biking. We love to sit around a fire and talk about days gone by.
I first heard about the game Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons when I was on a Theology Gaming podcast with my friend M. Joshua Cauller who has a great website called Love Subverts. He talked about the unique control scheme for the game in which each brother is controlled by an analog joystick. The game is designed for a single player to control both individuals on the screen. The game is available on several platforms including Steam for $14.99. However, this past week I turned on my PS3 and discovered that the game was a “free” download for PlayStation Plus members. Since Josh made me curious, I downloaded the game and after a short download time (It wasn’t very large compared to the file size of other modern games) I was soon playing the game.
Death is immediately an important aspect of this game. At the beginning of the story I discover a boy at the grave of his mother. He mourns her loss and blames himself for her death. If that isn’t depressing enough, I quickly discover that the father of the two brothers has become sick. They take him to the doctor who informs them that there is no hope unless they get some sort of magical elixir from a tree of life located far away. The two brothers set off to find the cure that will hopefully save their father’s life.
The first part of the game is basically a tutorial in which you learn how to control each of the brothers as they make their way through the hometown. From what I understand, this was also the demo release of the game. I encourage you to try this game – even if you played the demo of this game and were disappointed. This starting level does not reflect the quality of the game as it goes forward!
The adventures continues as they climb up the mountain with the help of a troll-like creature. They venture into some caves and caverns. While inside, they rescue a female troll who turns out to be a spouse of the troll to helped the boys earlier. It was touching to see the two creatures reunite and embrace one another.
After the caverns, they find themselves in a land of giants. They explore a huge room in an enormous castle. They find a captured griffon-like creature in a cage sitting on a giant desk and set it free. The griffon flies them from the castle to the next stage of the story – the aftermath of a huge battlefield of fallen giants. I found this part of the game particularly unique and interesting. Also, it is important to note that by this point in the game I was completely comfortable with the controls of the game. I was able to move the older brother with the left joystick and the younger brother with the right joystick almost in perfect harmony with one another. I was climbing, jumping, and swinging with relative ease.
The final stages of the game contain some spoilers SO PLEASE STOP READING IF YOU WANT TO EXPERIENCE THIS GAME FOR YOURSELF.
I was so affected by the story that I must write about it. The two boys rescue a young woman who leads them on an escape route through freezing water and slippery ice floes. It is clear that the older brother and the girl are attracted to each other. They flirt and even kiss one another. Then she leads them into a cavern and what a surprise! She morphs into a deadly Spider Queen. I hate it when that happens! The two brothers work together to destroy her – but in the process the older brother is bitten and his life is in peril. They see the tree of life in the distance and slowly make their way to the base of the tree. The younger brother goes on alone to the top of the tree and fills his canteen with the sap of the tree. He makes his way down and tries to give his brother the cure but it is too late. His brother dies in his arms.
What happens next is what really had an effect on me. You see, I had been playing the whole game getting used to the controls. But now there was no brother to control with the left joystick. He was gone. He was dead and never coming back. The younger brother had to dig the grave, put his brother in it, and then bury him. This gave me a unique feeling of grief. I have experienced grief and it is remarkably similar. The person that you are so used to being with is suddenly gone. It isn’t fair and the suffering is intense. Just that lone left analog joystick gave me all those feelings.
The younger brother makes his way home quickly with the help of the Griffin-like creature. He arrives close to his home but has to swim across a body of water. In the past, he had to rely on his older brother to swim but now his brother is gone. However, he summons up the strength and the only way he gets across is when I press the older brother’s action button. Finally, He makes his way up the path and collapses at the doorway of the doctor’s house. The doctor administers the elixir, and his father recovers. So the journey comes to an end with the father saved but a brother lost. There is a feeling of success but also an intense loneliness. The game ends with an emotional cut-scene of the father and the remaining son standing at a pair of gravestones. The father begins to cry and the credits roll.
Playing through this game was a worthwhile experience. It had a similar feel of games such as Ico or Shadow of the Colossus. The controls were hard to get used to – but that actually became an essential part of the game. I would play through the game again just to wander through that battlefield of slain giants. This game gets a Video Game Theology score of 8 out of 10.