Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Review
The premiere game from this year’s Summer of Arcade, Brothers is a single player co-op puzzle game overflowing with gorgeous graphics and interesting control schemes. Too bad that 90 minutes in, I am stuck on a glitch that even restarting cannot solve. And, now, all of my hard work is down the tubes.
So, with that in mind, I decided there are several topics worth discussing thanks to this sad situation. The first of which is utter frustration that glitches create. Previous to this glitch, I was playing along getting stuck here and there, but never felt extremely challenged. Once I got over the strangeness of single-player cooperative play, the trick to Brothers was identifying the puzzle in each area and how to solve it. At least within the first two hours, experienced gamers shouldn’t have too difficult of a time figuring things out.
Then, I reached a stage that had a giant stuck in a jail and a jailer holding a key on his waistband. Because some of the previous puzzles aren’t cut and dry, at first I figured that my attempts to snag this key were too simple for the puzzle. I proceeded to sneak into the jail, turn multiple levers, and even tiptoe towards the jailer.
Unfortunately, nothing was working. After 60 minutes of trial and error (with a small nap in-between), I ran to the internet for my solution. Instead of stumbling upon a video showing me the correct answer, I found a few complaints online that this was in fact a glitch and not a puzzle. The advice given was to restart my Xbox or restart the chapter. Still, I had no success.
At the core of my frustration is that getting stuck with glitches in a puzzle game is an epic time waste. Because puzzle games can be so specific, if the Quality Assurance isn’t done flawlessly, a broken game might just appear to be too hard to solve. This is not the same effect that glitches have in other genres.
Imagine all of the glitches you’ve seen in FPS games or in platformers. Usually, they are obvious malfunctions in the gameplay that put the player at an advantage or a disadvantage. You’re playing a Call of Duty game and a glitch in a level allow you to climb outside of the play area. Now you can rain down airstrikes or rockets without fear of being sniped by another player. Yes, this glitch sucks for the other players, but it doesn’t break the game.
The same goes for a glitched Mario game. Unless a puzzle in the gameplay is broken, most glitches can be ignored or played around in the platformer genre. And, if they aren’t, the glitch itself is typically easy to identify due to a drastic break of the gameplay illusion.
Unfortunately, puzzle games aren’t so lucky. Gamers are likely stuck trying to solve an unsolvable puzzle until the developer identifies the problem. And, if you’re lucky enough to be playing an indie game on a console, due to the inhibitive update processes, you may have to start your game from the beginning to avoid the glitch. That’s really uncool for us gamers and developers that are limited in their tools to fix their games.
While I am frustrated that I can’t deliver you a proper review because of this glitch (my early instinct was leaning towards a 8.0 for great graphics but obnoxious Sim-lish dialogue), there’s something else a bit inside-baseball that bothered me about this glitch. So, for those of you that have zero experience in the world of reviewing any form of media, I need to share with you details about how game reviews work.
You see, video games are either sent to reviewers in the mail on disc or a download code is e-mailed to us. In the case of AAA titles that are sent to market on disc, review copies are sent at least a week ahead of the release date to reviewers. In some cases (like an awesome new purple-themed sandbox game I will be reviewing), copies can be sent out weeks ahead of time. This is beneficial to reviewers and consumers because the reviewer will have ample time to play through games that can require 40 hours or more of exploration. It insures that the review is in-depth and that the consumer can get a heads up about any major failings within the code or the game.
In the case of downloadable games, the time frame is somewhat shorter. In the case of Brothers, I was provided the code 24 hours before it was released to the public. To get you, the reader, a good review of a game, 24 hours is an abomination. Now, had this been a game with four hours of gameplay, I could produce something worthwhile, but I’d be mostly working off of gut reaction. However, in the case of Brothers, a glitch completely destroys any possibility of making this game review-able for you. Might this have been a more remediable situation if I’d had the game a week ahead of time - absolutely. Instead, I’m stuck here giving you excuses why I can’t tell you if this game is worth your hard earned dollars...
Scratch that.. I can tell you if Brothers is worth your money or not: it isn’t. Not until the game is fixed 100% should you even consider looking into Brothers. In the meantime, if you want to be a better informed public about the quality of our games, keep pressure on game companies and console makers to get game reviewers copies of games well in advance of their release. It helps you the consumer, it helps us the reviewers, and, it even helps the publishers insure that their games actually work when they are released.
Because we review the games as they are released, bugs or not, we must rank the them accordingly. And this is one piece of gaming sushi that went bad before it was served to the customer. We'll take a second look at Brothers when the game is patched. But for now...
This review is based off of a publisher supplied copy of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons for the Xbox 360.