|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Vis Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SouthPeak Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 4, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
It is hard to imagine what life would have been like for a young Native American brave years ago. Becoming the hunter you needed to be, the leader you should be, and, of course, chasing after bears that attack your girlfriend. Not really all that much different from how life is now for young people trying to find their own way. Well, except for maybe the bear thing.
Brave tells the story of, Brave. I know that is a little confusing, but hey, that is what happens when the main character is also the title of the game. At the start of the game, we witness Brave and a girl, Meadow Flower, attacked by a bear. Actually, we do not see the attack, we are kind of thrown into the game right in the middle of the attack. You will have to throw rocks in order to distract the bear long enough for Meadow Flower to escape. Once evading the bear and severe thorn bushes along the path, you reach the village both of the kids are from and you meet Grey Bear. Meadow Flower and Grey Bear have hidden carvings, which are the equivalent of abilities, throughout the outskirts of the village. This stage of the game works as the tutorial for you to play around in. If you pay close enough attention to the cave paintings, the astute player will be able to figure out what to expect from the rest of the levels in the game. Through the paintings, you will also learn a vague amount about the legendary Spirit Dancer. After learning the basics of the game, a horrible thing happens. The village is attacked by the mythical creature known as the Wendigo, leaving Brave to seek out the only one who can stop the creature - Spirit Dancer.
The gameplay is both simplistic and complex simultaneously. Simplistic by its approach. You will search around for the correct path, which is usually labeled by a blue dot on your mini map. Complex, in this instance, by not always displaying the quickest or easiest path to take to reach point B from point A. This, however, is only one example of the complexity of the game. Sure, there is always a certain amount of complexity to this genre of game, but there are cases where, if you are under 10, you might want to have someone a little older around to help out just in case.
The combat is probably one of the simplest features to the game. Most of your attacks derive from pushing one button repeatedly until your enemies are crushed. Even that, at times, can become difficult to execute, mainly due to the fact that beetles, in particular, continuously pop up for you to quickly knock back down. The countless number of beetles that climb out of the dirt reminded me of other genres than constantly have repetitive enemies crawling out of the woodwork. The basic combat system will not be the only thing at Brave's disposal. You will also be able to use arrows for distance attacks and, in certain stages, you will be equipped with appropriate weapons depending on the stage. Also, you can invoke certain abilities like transforming into a spirit bear, wielding lightning or fire as a weapon to attack your foes, and possessing certain animals in order to reach areas Brave can't make it to alone. Unfortunately, as you progress through the title, you will find fewer enemies and only a few new additions to the bestiary.
While forming your own destiny by completing the quest set before you, you will travel to distinctively different locals to explore. One of the most frequented types of environments is the forest. You will spend most of the game in various renditions of the forest. Additionally, you will travel through a volcano and icy plains. Instead of automatically providing you with warm clothes on the icy plains, you will have to find the clothing - fast. Luckily, you find Sasquatch. Right there, the game provides a great reason to play this title. Where else can you meet and befriend Sasquatch? While traipsing through the stages, Brave will also be able to track animals. He does this to find hidden carvings or totems. The addition of the carvings and totems and the technique of fishing adds authenticity to the overall feel of the game. You will also travel through the Spirit plane itself. While these levels are rather entertaining, yet simplistic, there are two other types of stages you will have to complete in your journey that return that level of complexity to the game.
Those two stages are canoeing and flying. The thing about the canoeing is not the fact that you have to survive the raging rapids, it's the intensity. The rivers seem calm and, at first, you think, Oh, this looks interesting and fun, but they become extremely fast and this heightens the anticipation. Swerving around rocks, huge logs, and dodging whirlpools, that suck you in quickly, also add to your already increased attention to the situation. Add that there are no checkpoints, except for one level, and this activity could become very frustrating for some. The flying stages, while not as intense as the rapids, do provide a few nice ways to defeat your enemies, even if they are a bit challenging in some stages. For example, picking your enemies up off a cliff with the Eagle Spirit's claws and then dropping them into random abysses, gives an appeal to the flying stages.
The graphics are nothing spectacular, but they work for this title. The slick, cartoony features of the characters appeal to the eyes rather nicely. There are a few glitch problems with the graphics, though nothing that hinders the gameplay. The score of Brave is as much tranquil as it is simplistically beautiful. The voice acting is never over the top. Actually, the voice-overs are mostly pleasant; not using the same repetitive phrases helps the experience of the game immensely. There is also one other feature that both adds to the gameplay and authenticates the sounds of the game - mimicking. If you see an animal in first person mode, you can mimic the animal to call it to you. This adds to Brave's arsenal of becoming a great Shaman.
Regrettably, there is at least one huge problem with the game - the replayability factor. Brave succeeds in several areas of the genre but fails horribly due to this. This is not to say you will not want to replay the title. Instead, this is to say that, aside from going back through the title to obtain the 48 totems, there is really no other reason to play through the game. Yet once you figure out what the totems are, you may not even want to continue trying to find them.
While Brave: Search for Spirit Dancer does not provide originality to the genre, it does, however, proved a few hours of a game experience that you can enjoy. Since the market is flooded with games that are mainly focused on a specific age demographic, it is nice to see and play a game that could easily be called a family game. Incorporating several features of other successful games in the field further proves that the genre has ample room to spread its wings. Brave provides an enjoyable experience for gamers of every age.
CCC Freelance Writer