A young boy with long curly blonde hair hunches over a gravestone, remembering his mother’s death; when she drowned to death and he could do nothing to save her. Later, when his big brother starts to swim across a creek, the little brother stands back and motions with his hands as if to say, “No freaking way I’m getting in there.”
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons tells a story about the eternal impact that we leave behind. It does this by having us simultaneously guide two brothers through a wide-reaching litany of compelling traversal puzzles. The result is an interactive Scandinavian folk parable of love, loss, and the spiritual impact we leave behind.
You move both brothers with analog sticks as they push and pull a wheelbarrow with their father in it. Their father wheezes and coughs. You navigate a bridge and learn how the contextual triggers respond to each brother in unique ways. In this case, left trigger makes the older brother clasp his hands together and sturdy himself. Pulling the little brother’s trigger at this time makes him climb to the ledge above. Discover how to get the pulley system working with both brothers and the lift raises their father so they can reach the village elder.
Frazzled, the elder spews his unintelligible speech as the boys look on with concerned faces. He pulls out a map and shows them the tree that has their father’s cure. Before long, they’re off and coming upon that creek.
At first, movement and interaction feels awkward, as crossing brothers to opposite sides of the screen screws with your brain. But by the middle of the game, moving the brothers feels almost natural and builds into a profound interconnection.
The brothers reach a high ledge that requires careful balance and the big brother holding his little brother up by a long branch. Suddenly tree imps attack and keeping things together gets tricky. Right when they think they’re through, the little brother plummets. Seeing his younger brother fall into a deep pool of ice cold water, you send big brother into the water to pull out his drowning body. After doing everything to resuscitate the little brother, it seems all is lost. And then at the last attempt to bring him back, he coughs up water.
As with many folk tales, things take a turn for the dark. The brothers stumble upon a man who tightens a noose around his neck before kicking the stool away. As big brother, I held the man up while using little brother to climb the tree and untie the rope from the tree. The man sobbed and whimpered even after we stopped him. Nearby was what was left of his burning house and the charred remains of his wife and child. Figuring that there was something else to be done here, I found a way to get the younger brother into the charred house and find his wife’s unburnt treasure box, which I assume was full of happy memories. This seemed to settle the old man. I made the brothers stand there for a moment in silent grievance for the man’s family before venturing forward. Not only did they save a man’s life, but they helped him grieve. And yes, all of this is optional. But it seemed central to the theme of leaving a lasting impact.
Near the end of the game, fate divides the brothers. The only way to continue is to depend on the mechanics that the game designed to control the other brother; for them to lean on one another even after they’re separated. The result is a very practical illustration on the lasting impact that we leave behind. It serves as a reminder that whoever comes into our lives can profoundly shape our lasting destiny.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons stole GameChurch’s top honors for 2013 Game Jesus Would Love the most (which I had something to do with). As such, it seems time to share why I stand behind that decision and why I think everybody should play this game.
To avoid spoilers, I avoided some specific illustrations of how the theme of lasting impact spells-out in Brothers. The best way to discover the subtle and surprising ways eternal impact draws out in it is to play Brothers yourself. Perhaps an even better way to understand the theme is for you to answer this:
Question: Who in your life has deeply impacted your destiny but isn’t with you anymore?