Originally Posted on August 21, 2012: Link.
Two Brothers is a provocative new project from the indie team AckkStudios, a small group of developers who show a clear passion for the games of yesteryear. Instead of dwelling on what came before them, they are taking it only on a conceptual and artistic level and delivering what has the potential to be a very entertaining adventure.
In the beginning moments of the demo, everything exists in 8-bit monochrome. A young scientist named Roy is out to learn more about this mysterious land with the help of his partner, Mark, who serves as more of a mule but makes up for it with his fighting abilities. Breaching the themes of life and death, Roy is entranced by his first discovery of color and wishes to seek it out once again. Think of a more fantastical and mythological version of Pleasantville and you’re partway there.
Where as with other games, death becomes an obstruction that sends you back to the last checkpoint, in Two Brothers, it is simply only the beginning. Waking up high above the rest of the world in a soft bed surrounded by beautifully vibrant colors, this areas works as a hub to walk around in. Here I was able to converse with different NPCs that found themselves in this same unusual predicament. It’s an amazing feature of the game, and one that foreshadows the ability of affecting the world below from this land high above it.
Bar none, the best part of this area and likewise the demo itself was the song that plays in this afterlife. I actually sat my controller down and let the song play for several minutes, soaking in what was easily the best track I had heard in the game. Conversing with the different NPCs in the world also opens up a dialogue tree where you can reply with three different expressions, each generating their own unique response. Time will tell how impactful these conversations are, but it certainly provided depth to what would normally be a strictly linear discussion.
The combat itself is classic Legend of Zelda: enemies roam around the battlefield waiting to be dispatched with variety of short and long range weapons. There is also grass to be cut, puzzles to be solved, and dungeons to be explored. The game design however leans far more heavily on the RPG aspect; not only is there an Overworld, but there are weapons, armor, items, and skills to obtain.
Two Brothers may draw inspiration from some of the greats, but it also innovates in some really interesting ways. First off, instead of simply opening up a menu, you can leap inside your partner’s backpack. Inside, you are able to walk around and enter different rooms, with each serving a different purpose. There’s a place to change armor and equipment, and even a workshop that wasn’t accessible in the demo but points to a crafting system. Time will tell how robust all of this becomes, but the team clearly went the extra mile creating something altogether unique for the game.
Although my time spent with the demo was a short one, it offered a glimpse of how much effort the developers put into making this fantastic new title, from the levels themselves down to the highly detailed sprites. With stunning combat and sound design, an amazing soundtrack that complements the world very well, and a story just begging to be explored further, Two Brothers looks to offer a game that plays against one’s expectations of this genre while also providing an intriguing complexity to its world and characters.