‘Two Brothers’ hides true colors beneath flashy coat of paint

Courtesy Ackkstudios
Courtesy AckkstudiosBy Caitlin Piper

‘Two Brothers’ forced me to ask myself a lot of questions. What is the true nature of life and death? What is the meaning of color? How do we comprehend that which we cannot explain?

Unfortunately, the questions didn’t stop there. Over the course of my 12-hour journey with the eponymous sibling duo, I asked more and more questions.

Can a preference for style over substance work in an interactive medium?

Can fun little nods to the titles of yesteryear make up for a lack of polish and a myriad of technical problems?

Can a combination of nostalgia and an above-average script transform what is an otherwise average adventure game into an enjoyable and memorable PC classic?

Set in an ill defined but imaginative fantasy world, “Two Brothers” follows brothers Roy and Braville as they journey to find the meaning of color, which only exists in the afterlife. Having just returned from the afterlife himself (sans his recently deceased wife), Roy searches for vindication after his brush with death, as even he has difficulty comprehending what he has seen.

“Two Brothers” is a thinly veiled pastiche of numerous 8- and 16-bit favorites, such as ‘Final Fantasy’ or the early “Zelda” titles. Though many of the tropes and game mechanics utilized in “Two Brothers” are largely derivative, make no mistake – these were chosen with the utmost care by the developers, who are clearly fans of the adventure games of old. Much of its appeal lies in the discovery of gaming references and fourth wall-shattering jokes. Here’s one for the “Zelda” fans: chop down tall grass to get some free items.

Other major sources of the game’s appeal lie in its plot and characters, which are largely well written and richly developed. The game’s bizarre world also does an admirable job of unnerving and immersing the player in its antics.

Despite this, “Two Brothers” is difficult to recommend when it comes down to it, even for the hardcore retro gaming crowd.

It is riddled with glitches, chief among them a tendency for the game to freeze when the player tries to open a treasure chest, and when combined with the lackluster combat, weak enemy AI and a plethora of spelling and grammatical errors, this otherwise stylish and well-plotted game is bogged down by mistakes which could have been remedied with a little extra polish. It’s rather sad to see such an ambitious labor of love fall flat, but that’s just the way things go sometimes.

If you are a fan of retro games or new games disguised as retro games, ‘Two Brothers” probably isn’t for you. Do yourself a favor and check out “Undertale” or “Nanashi no Game”, which were far more successful in their attempts to emulate the games of the past.

However, if you are willing to overlook its faults and just want to experience a good story firsthand,  “Two Brothers” is worth a look. Though far from perfect, there are flashes of brilliance in this nostalgic little adventure, and $15 isn’t much to ask for when it comes to a deeply flawed but interesting game. There’s certainly a lot worse out there for more than double that price.

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