Brave: The Video Game review
Brave: The Video Game is based on the Disney-Pixar movie of the same name. It is a third-person action-adventure game where you play as both the movie's and game's protagonist, Merida. She's a fiery, red-headed Princess from Scotland who is impressive with a bow and doesn't want to live by society's normal rules. Give her hand away in marriage?! No way! It follows along the same story as the movie; while I don't want to give away spoilers (for those of you planning on seeing it), it involves a spell, a witch and a bunch of bears with the backdrop of mythical Scotland. Is Brave a bullseye, or does this ginger lack a soul?
The best way I can describe Brave is that it feels like Dungeon Siege III but for a younger audience. Obviously, kids are going to be the target audience with this game. Even though the ESRB rating is E10+, there's no reason a five-year-old wouldn't enjoy it. I have a three-year-old and he kept asking me to play the "bear game." He'd even play a few parts too.
As with any third-person action-adventure, combat is the central aspect of Brave. You battle ice golems, spear-chucking trees, wolves, and other enemies of different elemental types. As Merida, you fight them off with a sword and bow, with your melee attacks assigned to the 'square' button and ranged attacks being handled by the right analog stick. There's no combos, so combat never gets too fancy, but you toggle through four different elements that you equip for your attacks. The elements are earth, fire, wind and ice; certain elements do more damage to certain enemies — like fire attacks do more damage to ice wolves. The elements also activate certain parts of the map required to move on.
While there's not a lot of diversity to the attacks, using the coins you collect from enemies and breaking stuff in the environment, you can unlock a jump attack, dodge, and charge-up aoe ranged attacks with each element. As you progress through each stage, you come across chests that contain parts of tapestries that can increase your health or damage, and weapons — like new bows or swords. The weapons say they increase your damage with all swords or bows, so if you like the cosmetic look of another weapon, you can use that one and still keep the upgrade.
Each level, and I think I counted eight of them, follows the same structure. There's fighting and jumping to different platforms, a puzzle section where you use three bear cubs, and a section where you fight as a big bear. Every level follows this format. Once again, this is fine since it's geared towards younger gamers. As an adult playing this though, you'll still have fun — you'll just get a little bored with them. The puzzles are logic puzzles where you swap between three bear cubs to move them into positions where they pull levers and jump to get to an activation switch, allowing Merida to continue her quest.
The part where you fight as a bear was the most disappointing part of the combat to me. I felt like it was a missed opportunity to really switch up the gameplay, but all you do is run around hitting enemies. As the bear, you get three attacks — a charge, a ground pound, and a swipe. The enemies are the same ones you've been facing all game, and even though you have three attacks, you could just use the ground pound or swipe the entire time. It should take you about 30 seconds to complete, and then it's over. I will say this: this was my son's favorite part of the game. All he wanted to do was run around as the bear.
When it comes to the puzzles and jumping/platforming parts, kids 10 and up will be able to do it with a few hiccups here and there. Kids younger will have some problems, as some of the jumps can prove a little difficult. The biggest problem that comes with the combat and platforming is the camera. It's often pulled out too far, making it difficult to judge the distance of jumps. It kind of feels like the camera is so far out that you get lost in the fray. It doesn't ruin the game by any means, but it creates a disconnect from the action.
There is multiplayer — two players can play through the game in co-op on one console, and I personally feel that there's no need to have an online co-op. In the co-op, the first player will play as Merida and the second will play as a Will O' The Wisp (a blue glowing orb mystical thingy). You get the same attacks and elemental effects as Merida, and if you still are able to upgrade the Will O' The Wisps abilities (which exactly mirror Merida's). One problem with co-op, again, is the camera. It follows the first player, so if you take the Wisp off screen, there's the potential to get lost.
As far as replayability and extras, that's where I have the biggest problem with the game. Extras come as concept art and stuff like that. Once you beat the game, the only real option you have is to start a new game. I wasn't able to go back and replay a level from the level gateway hub like I was able to during the game. I started a new game and everything I had collected through my first playthrough was gone. I couldn't go back and visit a stage if I missed part of a tapestry; I would have to play through the entire game again. All my collectibles were gone. This is problematic for kids, as well. My son wanted to play a part with the bear (of course) and I couldn't just jump to a part I've already beaten. What's the point in taking away the concept art that you've already unlocked? It doesn't make any sense to me, and I don't understand the choice the developers made when it came to replay value.
Moving past that, the game looks pretty good. It's not at the level of Cars 2 or Toy Story 3 for me, but it has some nice appeal. At E3 during my hands-on, one of the Disney Interactive reps told me that they really tried to capture the flow and look of Merida's bundle of curly hair. I see what they tried to do, but it isn't quite there. The environments and effects are fine for this type of game, but at times it can get a bit bland. It was pleasant to look at but not awe-inspiring. The soundtrack, however, is awesome. Right from the title screen, you really get blown away by the music. The voice actor for Merida is the same one from the movie, Kelly Macdonald, and she does an awesome job.
The only other thing to this game is the archery mini-game for Kinect and PlayStation Move. And I can't comment on it because I don't have a Move, hence me not being able to try it out. We will update the review at a later time once we are able to try it out.
Brave: The Video Game does a great job as a third-person action-adventure for kids. It holds value for adults as well, but there's not enough there for adult staying power. It goes along great with the movie, and the puzzles and platforming is great to get kids acclimated with these types of games. The thing that irks me, though, is that you lose everything once you beat the game. If someone wants to go back and replay a certain part, they can't. The game is short and should take you four to five hours to beat, but it's just an annoying design choice. And for people that hunt achievements or trophies, if you miss one part of a tapestry and beat the game, you HAVE to play through the game again. While the game could use some more variety, if your kid loves Brave, you want a simple action-adventure that plays well, or want a game you can enjoy with your kids, Brave is a good choice.
[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]
You can follow Lance Liebl on Twitter @Lance_GZ. He also like t-shirts... send him t-shirts. KCCO.