I recently had an opportunity to sit down and play through Brave: The Video Game on the Wii, which is based on the Pixar movie of the same name. I thought that the environment was lovely, the fighting system seemed solid enough, and the music was catchy. And while it was an enjoyable enough experience, but there were definitely a few points that bothered me enough that I felt they were worth mentioning. It is my belief that a game should make you curse the monsters and the villains for being so evil, not cursing the game mechanics for getting in your way.
First off, it may have been partially due to my television, but there seemed to be a lot of extreme darks and brights, so more than a few times I had to fiddle with my remote and the picture options just so I could see where Merida was. I’d fix the problem on the dark end, and then she’d travel into the light and I’d lose her in that. The setting is beautiful and immersive, but if it can’t be seen, then none of that matters.
Secondly, it seemed to me that the story was very disjointed and somewhat inconsistent. They favored a style of storytelling where you bring your audience in right in the middle of a story line, then reveal information along the way. I think that is a strong style of storytelling, but they didn’t stay consistent with it. After the first level, there is very little new story information to be added. It’s just battle after battle after battle. That is also an acceptible story telling mode for a video game, but not if you’ve already set up something else.
Along the same lines, there were a few points in the game that completely confused me in terms of controls or, more specifically, who it was that I was controlling. Without spoiling the game/movie plot, for those who haven’t seen them yet, there are a few times in the game where suddenly Merida gets overwhelmed, and another character rushes to her rescue. The first time that happened, I had no warning that there even was another character to play, no pop-up notification making me aware that that was about to happen. Suddenly, mid-game, there’s a cutscene and now I have to instantly learn new controls. It was very jarring, and I know I’ve seen it handled better.
One more word to the wise: there is an upgrade system in the game (which takes place at certain rocks…again, something I’m not too sure about). Whenever I’m upgrading a character, I like to look at all the options before buying, and I kept seeing options for something called a “Coop Wisp”. This character was never introduced or explained, so I wondered if I missed it or if it was coming later, so I spent points on upgrading it. If they had just added a dash and called it a “Co-op Wisp”, I’d have figured out it was a 2 Player option. Again, something that was not explained in the game at all. There is a booklet that comes with the game that explains everything, but let’s be honest, you have to discuss these things during gameplay or else a lot of people will never know about them.
I also was a bit disappointed that the layout of the game was so 2-dimensional. By that, I mean that if you just head forward, you will get to the end. And, chances are, if there is a fork in the road, one will take you closer to the end, and one will take you two steps away where you will find a treasure chest or a ton of gold. So visit every fork you find and you’ll excel at the game. Also, if you come across a zipline or launching pad or anything that makes it impossible to go backward, look around you for a treasure chest there, too. Once I wrapped my head around the fact that I didn’t have to really search for anything, the game became less game and more storytelling, so I enjoyed the challenge of not getting killed.
My biggest concern, though was that there was absolutely zero control over the camera. Which means I had to fight enemies that were off screen, which makes it difficult to figure out which of the 4 types of arrows is going to work best here. I also had to jump from block to block over a pit of doom and I had no way of figuring out where in space they existed. Just guess after guess after guess until I finally got it right, then I had to do it again. One swing of the camera would have helped me figure out distance and orientation and I would have had no problem. Especially if so much work is put into the environment, why would you not want to let people examine it fully?
At the end of the day, again I say, this was a fun game. I felt myself reasonably challenged, though slightly annoyed, and I had no qualms of playing through to the end. My notes and comments are mostly those that will annoy “gamer” types or anyone who would use Epic Mickey as a standard. I enjoyed some of the special moves, and thought the occasional puzzles added a lot, and there were some boss battles that legitimately had me wishing for me mum. I’d play it again, but it wouldn’t be my first choice.
If you’re looking for a good entry-level game, or a game your kids or teens would enjoy playing, I think this would be a good option for that. If you just finished playing the latest Halo, this is not a good next step for you. It’s a cute game with a changeable difficulty level to make sure you’re not bored and you’re not enraged.
Out of 5, I think it earned a 3.
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