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Ripping Hearts Out of Butts with Brothers - Destructoid




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Twitter: @TheDustinThomas

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TheDustinThomas here, you probably don't know me, but I write things here on Destructoid from time to time. Occasionally I get on the front page:

The Most Inexplicably-Often Rented Games At Blockbuster

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Before I begin, let there be full disclosure that I'm going to be spoiling Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons towards the end (I'll let you know when the spoilers begin). I know a lot of people are probably just now playing it or planning to play it thanks to PlayStation Plus, so you can't say I didn't warn you.

After I finished The Last of Us, I figured it would be years before another game would come along with that amount of emotional impact on me. I was wrong, it only took about a month. Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons turned out to be one of the most heart-wrenching experiences I've ever had in any medium. My wife watched me play the entirety of the game, and, as she so eloquently put it at the conclusion: "This game just ripped my heart out of my butt." Finishing School did her well.

I think the reason this game resonated with me so much is that fact that I'm the younger of two brothers. We didn't have any other siblings, and even though he had his friends and very easily could have ignored me, he always included me with whatever he was doing whenever he could. My brother is three years older than me, which is roughly the same amount of years between the brothers in the game, give or take a year or two.

I had heard a lot of great things about the game, but I have a hard time paying $15 for a downloadable game, so I was waiting on a sale, and I feel like the price of 'free' was a sale price worth waiting for, although now that I've played it, I would have been happy with a full-price purchase.



The game has a very unique control scheme. You only use the two analog sticks and two of the shoulder buttons. That's it. The elder brother is mapped to the left stick and button, and the younger to the right (keep that in mind, it becomes important later). You control both brothers simultaneously, and I never truly got used to it. Not to say that it's bad, I just found myself getting confused every so often. If I was moving the brothers to the right, I always had to make sure the younger brother was leading the way because he was mapped to the right stick, and vice versa when moving left. The only real problem I had that arose out of the controls is accidentally letting go of the action button for the wrong brother and having him fall to his death. That was my indication that I needed to focus more next time.

Brothers isn't a hard game, it's actually (and I hate to say it this way) more of an experience than it is a game. There's no direct combat outside of one instance, and the puzzles aren't difficult, in fact, you'll never need more than about thirty seconds to figure out what you have to do. It's all about the journey instead of the destination, although the destination is pretty incredible, too. What's even better is that the story is basically told with no language (at least not one that I can understand). It's all conveyed through body language, which I thought was great.


Pictured: Body language.

Even though I'm a younger brother, I found myself playing with the mentality of a big bro. Any time I came to a point where one brother had to go ahead of the other, I always had the older brother go first. I never wanted to put the little brother in any sort of danger whatsoever. I really grew attached to that little guy, perhaps because I looked at him and saw myself, and even though it only takes one brother dying to see the game over screen, I did my best to keep the little brother out of harm's way at all times.

>>GUYS, THE SPOILERS BEGIN HERE. SO STOP READING IF YOU WISH.<<

I'll let a classic scene from The Simpsons explain exactly what Starbreeze Studios did with my heart in the last 20 minutes of Brothers.



Seriously, that's how I felt when this game was over. The entire plot of the game is that the brothers need to get water from the Tree of Life to save the life of their ailing father, and really, that's all you need. It works perfectly. My brother and I would go to the ends of the earth if this was our father, so I understand. There's also some great subplots scattered throughout the game, like reuniting the giants and returning the baby turtles to their mother. 

Anyway, about an hour removed from the end, you come across a girl being bound to a giant rock who about to be sacrificed. You rescue her, and she helps you traverse an icy mountain village. When you defeat the invisible giant destroying this small town, she leads you to a hole in the mountains, where she then reveals herself to be a giant spider (because of course she is) and betrays you. This is the one area with actual combat, and upon finishing the battle, she impales the older brother. I'm not kidding when I say that I audibly shouted "OH NO!" once this happened.



Then, instead of just having the older brother pass away, they give you hope as you've just reached the Tree of Life. The younger brother climbs the tree, gets the water, and gives his brother a drink, only to discover that it's too late. But then they take it one step further, as they actually make you drag your brother over to his grave and then push the dirt onto his body. At this point I put my hand on my chest and screamed "OW, MY HEART!"

When you reach your home shores to save your father, the game does one of the most incredible pieces of story-telling ever, and it's not done through a cutscene, it's done through the controller. There are certain things that only the older brother can do throughout the adventure--like swim and pull heavy levers--and when you get back to the shores, you come to a body of water that the brother refuses to cross. I exhausted all possibilities before discovering that I had to use the button mapped to the older brother to swim across.



Something as simple as switching which button you use carried huge emotional weight, and it's immediately followed by using the same tactic to pull down a lever, with my heartstrings again being tugged. You reach your father and save him just in the nick of time. We flash forward a short time to find the little brother at the shoreline, and we make our way to the top of the small mountain to find the father standing before his son's grave and grieving. In a great and subtle piece of story, the father breaks down in tears and falls to his knees, the younger brother lays his hand on his father to console him, and then looks off into the distance without shedding a single tear, showing just how much strength he had gained on his quest.

Again, maybe it's because, in my mind, I copy-pasted mine and my brother's faces onto these characters, but I had never had that kind of emotional response to a game before. It was a truly beautiful experience.



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