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“I love the interactiveness of games,” says Josef Fares. “I love that you’re in control. I love that you’re doing stuff. There’s so much to explore. Making films is a walk in the park compared to games, it’s insane the amount of work. It’s like a job but it’s so much fun.”
Fares is an award-winning film director and avid gamer. He’s now working with Starbreeze Studios on what he calls his dream project, a single-player puzzler called Brothers – A Tale of Two Sons.
The brothers are inextricably linked through your controller. You left hand controls the bigger brother, moving with the left analogue stick and using left trigger as the catch-all interaction button. Your right hand controls the smaller brother, the more excitable of the two.
The older brother tends to be somewhat serious, greeting an old lady politely as she watches the pair in the street from her rocking chair. When you press the younger brother’s button, he races up to village elder and starts gleefully rocking her chair. It’s all in good fun and contrast shows off their characters perfectly.
As the player, you can’t help but smile at the distinction, but I fear that the simplicity may prove to be the game’s biggest weakness. A later puzzle had the brothers advancing through a harvested field, taking it in turns to distract a guard dog by whistling, as the other brother advanced to the safety of the next haystack. Every puzzle boils down to trying the action button with first one brother, then the other, which doesn’t sound like much of a challenge to me.
That said, my favourite game of last year was Journey, in which you walk around, jump and occasionally whistle. Simple can be good too.
I asked Fares what makes films so much easier than games. “For instance, your actress doesn’t fall through ground suddenly and disappear,” he replied. “Everything you have in the game… the first thing is that it’s interactive. In film you have it locked, so once you have received it, that’s it. You’re in control of your audience. Here, it’s like you guys are on my set and you can go around, fuck around with my actors, take the camera, pull it out and throw it away.
“Everything we put in here, half the time is covering things up. I’m quite impressed with game creators after this. I can’t even imaging the amount of work for an open world game like GTA 4 or Assassin’s Creed.”
Farer has a different approach to most games – he doesn’t believe in the familiar method of introducing a puzzle, a solution and then asking the player to apply that solution to a range of similar problems.
“In Trine, there’s a part where you actually put some water on a plant and it grows into a platform, which is really cool,” he said. “But after the seventh time, it gets boring. you lose the effect of the first time. Brothers is really the opposite, trying to give the player something new all the time.”
To that end, none of the puzzles will repeat. Here, you alternated whistles to attract a dog. Over there, you jogged in giant treadmill to lower a bridge. Elsewhere, you’ll get a troll to carry you around a bit. It’s a beautiful, interesting world and with 7 chapters, there should be plenty to do. I just hope there’s room for a bit of thinking, too.
Brothers will be out later this year on PSN and XBLA.