Brothers is a very simple game. It relies on ancient hallmarks of 3D platforming that have been done to death, but because of its primary gimmick — you control two characters simultaneously — just doing these basic things can be a struggle. That’s no slight against the game, really; the designers were clearly aware of the limits of your motor skills in these conditions, and the game never asks you to do the impossible.
But the game is beautiful and underappreciated. I may be a little maudlin about this one, but it came as a strong, clear answer to a question I’d been asking myself about the very sorts of things a game could do as an art form which no medium before it was capable of.
There’s not just one straight answer to that question. It’s not “interactive storytelling” in the sense that the player participates in forming the story, or selecting options that impact the story being told, giving them a sense of responsibility. It’s interactive storytelling in the sense that a story is being told by means of your mode of interaction with it. Brothers hit me very hard when I figured out everything it was doing and communicating to me as a player. This wasn’t instantaneous, because I wasn’t used to thinking this way. That’s definitely worthy of note.
There’s not a lot else I should try to say about it — perhaps apart from changing the subject and praising the evocative environment art — and I think I’m already saying more than enough. Others may not be as easily impressed as I was, but I think that if only due to its short length and willingness to try a new path, it should be considered a must-play. I confess that I choked up by the time I was done.
If I were to try and talk to a non-gamer about what I felt were the most powerful artistic experiences I might curate to express what made gaming noteworthy as its own art form, chances are my number one choice would still be something very hard to approach without former experience — namely Dark Souls. That can’t be pleasant to hear for non-gamers, but with the participatory element in video games being what it is, part of what makes games unique is an often-needed fluency in interacting with them.
That said, I would quickly follow up by naming some alternative approaches, and alongside whatever I think is the best Telltale-style game at the time, this is definitely one that I would try to push upon gamers and non-gamers alike. Play it if you get the opportunity.