Brave: The Video Game Review
A surprisingly entertaining movie tie-in that appeals to more than just kids.
It's no secret really, publishers and developers release games based off of new movie franchises to cash in on the success (or potential success) of the film(s). They've been doing it for years. Just because it's a cash in, though, doesn't mean that it's necessarily a bad game, just most of the time. Brave was one of the surprising few that was actually good.
Brave is the story of a young princess named Merida, who... well, doesn't want to be a princess in the traditional sense. She wants to be a warrior, an archer and do those kinds of things, instead of princess like things. The guiding force in Merida's life to make her be more lady like is her mother. Merida wishes things to be different, then poof, before she knows it, her mother is a Bear and so are her three younger brothers. Now it's up to Merida to break the curse and save her family.
Brave is a pretty standard action platformer. You have a jump, you have a melee attack, and you have a bow to shoot arrows at your foes. The shooting with the bow and arrows plays very much like a twin stick shooter. You point your right analog stick int he direction you want to shoot, and you shoot in that direction. Brave is actually really easy to start playing, which is great because it's a game that is supposed to draw kids in. In this respect, Brave is actually really amazing, as an adult, I still had a lot of fun. I'm not going to lie, I went in to Brave: The Game thinking pretty low on what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised.
The game play is broken up in brave between a few different modes. You first have your action platforming, which will have you jumping and running around platforms and fighting baddies with your sword and with arrows. The combat is decently in depth with the addition of 4 different elemental runes, which are earned throughout the story. Most enemies have an elemental weakness, and it's up to you to exploit said weakness with the proper element. With the combat, as well, the more kills (for lack of a better word) you achieve, the higher your critical hit chances. When you do have a big streak going, little wisps start to surround Merida, they vanish once she takes any damage. There is actually a reward for playing smart and avoiding damage, that reward is way way more damage for you. There is also the option for co-op through the standard game. You summon in a co-op wisp to help you. Though, the camera still only follows Merida. This makes the co-op wisp the perfect character for little siblings, or maybe even for younger kids if their parents want to take the role of Merida.
Throughout the game you gain coins, these coins are used to upgrade Merida (and the co-op wisp). You can purchase new sills for her using the in game gold, and that's really about all it's used for. To find more gold, though, the player is encouraged to go exploring around the levels. While exploring you may also find treasure chests that contain collectible pieces of tapestry, swords or bows. The tapestries aren't just mere collectibles to have, they actually give you immediate bonuses, so it's definitely worth it to go searching around the levels. Gaining new swords and bows, unsurprisingly, nets you stronger attacks with the corresponding weapons.
I always have an issue with 3D platformers with fixed cameras. I'm watching a game that is represented in 3 dimensions, however, I'm doing so on a flat TV, one that is actually only 2 dimensions. This causes some problems with depth. There were many times where I would assume I was actually over the platform, only to fall down the pit due to being too far from it, or not far enough. It's not a big problem in Brave, they just spawn you back where you attempted the jump and they take a bit of health from you. It's just mildly frustrating when you have a full critical hit modifier, as the wisps vanish once you take damage from any source. I have this same issue with pretty much any 3D platformer with fixed cameras, though it's really only a minor annoyance.
To break up the game play there are two other mini games. Every now and then Merida's mother, Eleanor (a huge black bear), is controllable by the player to take out many baddies. It's a pretty straight forward mini game, you hit buttons to do attacks and things go down really quickly. On top of playing as Eleanor, you also play as the triplets to solve puzzles. The puzzles usually involve pulling levers, standing on platforms and various other things. You switch between each bear to achieve these goals. The puzzles weren't typically challenging for myself, though I could see it being a tiny bit more difficult for someone younger. The puzzles were a nice addition to the platforming and exploration.
The animation was pretty well done. The art suited the game very much so. The environments looked good with just the right amount of detail too. The only issue with the graphics really came down to the frame rate. At certain points in the game, I noticed the frame rate dropped enough to get choppy. The frame rate drops really only seemed to happen during major camera adjustments and not during combat, which is nice. It means the drops were really only a very minor annoyance, instead of a game breaking problem. Through out the game, as well, the game is interrupted with really well animated cut scenes that explain the story. These scenes were really well done, and I enjoyed them. Though at some points early on they come unexpected, and they places one scene after only a few steps of another. I don't see much point to this, and for some reason game designers do it frequently. At least that only happened once or twice in Brave.
Overall, Brave is a kids game. There is no way around that. Was it fun? Yes. I definitely enjoyed it. The game play was engaging, but simple enough. You had plenty of upgrades to give Merida to make the game more varied as well. The graphics were good, other than the minor frame rate issues from time to time. If you have kids around who were big fans of the film, then you will do them a huge favour by getting them the game. If you want something to kill a few hours, then I'd suggest waiting for a lower price on it, but I still recommend picking it up. I had a blast with the game, but it definitely helps that I am an over grown man child...