|System: Xbox 360*, PS3, PC|
|Dev: Behaviour Interactive|
|Release: June 19, 2012|
|Players: 1-2 (Local)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Fantasy Violence|
by Adam Dodd
As a critic who's had to endure the painful experience of reviewing the awful games based on the Transformers films as well as a handful of Harry Potter licensed games, I wasn't really looking forward to spending a few hours with Brave: The Video Game. The problem with games like this is the developers are given a very short period of time to churn the game out so they can get the game out at the same time as the film it's cross-promoting. And this means corners are cut, bugs are left unsquashed and features aren't really fully developed. Thankfully, Brave isn't quite as bad as the shlock that tends to get pushed on unsuspecting consumers around this time of year, but it's also not very good. Here's why.
Because the target audience here is younger gamers, and, more specifically, fans of the animated film this game is based off of, the gameplay is pretty straightforward. You control Merida, a young woman with some rather incredible skills in archery, so her main weapon is a bow. Should an enemy get a little too close, you also have a sword to take care of them. The added layer of depth and strategy comes with the different charms that let you bestow your arrows with elemental effects (fire, air, ice, and earth). They will come in handy when you go up against creatures with resistances to certain elements, forcing you to mix up your strategy a bit in order to defeat them.
When you're not fighting, you're going to be spending a majority of your time traversing a decent sized world. It lacks a lot of the detail required to make it a visually interesting journey, but at least, for the most part, the platforming isn't too bad. Running along cliffs and jumping from one platform to the next isn't the issue here, it's really the god-awful camera that ends up being your worst enemy. It chugs and stutters and seems to have quite a bit of trouble maintaining a decent focus on the character you control.
The option to upgrade your powers is a nice addition, as it adds a sense of progression, the sense that you're becoming more powerful the longer you play. You receive gold coins by performing certain feats and destroying objects scattered about the environments that can be invested into upgrading a few dozen upgrades. The powers at your disposal aren't too shabby either, including summoning monsters to fight by your side and many other abilities that are all based on the four elements. The customization doesn't end there, as you can find and equip better items, including various bows, swords, and costumes.
If you have a PlayStation Move controller, you can take advantage of the archery minigame, and those who have Kinect can do something similar. Like most games that utilize the two different control methods, they each feel a little awkward. The minigames include Quiver Limit, which gives you a limited number of arrows that you can use during each round. Then there's Survival, where you have to hit moving wooden targets before they reach you. The final minigame is called Quick Draw, and it's basically more of the same only with a time limit. There's really nothing worthwhile here outside of a brief distraction or a little target practice, and it was obviously just added so they could slap "Kinect/Move Compatible!" on the case.
You can go at it alone or with a friend, with one player controlling Merida and the other as Will O' the Wisp. The second player is in more of a supportive role here, as you assist the first player when you're needed. The best thing about this is another player can jump in and out of the game at any time—there's no loading or anything to break the immersion. The co-op proves that this is very much the type of game that's perfect for a parent and their child, so if you fall into that category you probably won't leave disappointed.
Like any good adventure platformer, every so often you'll come across puzzles. Because of the target audience, these puzzles function less as a brain teaser and more like a brief respite from the combat and platforming. I wish they had been a little more difficult, but it's understandable that none are too challenging. For the most part, they come in the form of environmental puzzles that include Merida's three brothers. You'll usually end up arranging them to trigger platforms that gain you access to other parts of the levels. They're sprinkled on as to keep the game from feeling to repetitive and they succeed, somewhat.