Upon starting up Two Brothers, one immediately notices the 2D Game Boy-esque stylized graphics and presentation. While a fan of the classic Link's Awakening will feel right at home with Two Brothers, Ackk Studios is taking the action adventure genre to another level by adding many gameplay elements and layers to the formula. The demo I played is on the PC, but Two Brothers is currently being developed for the PC, Mac, Linux, XBLA, and Wii U. I set up an Xbox 360 controller to the PC to play the demo, and it was a much more comfortable and natural experience than using the keyboard commands. It is highly recommended for those playing the PC version of the game to do the same. I would really look forward to playing Two Brothers on the Wii U gamepad screen, as I feel the experience would feel most authentic on a portable screen.
"Ackk Studios is taking the action adventure genre to another level by adding many gameplay elements and layers to the formula."
The demo puts you in control of the main hero Roy, who is followed around by his friend Mark. Mark basically serves the purpose of item mule, but is also a source for dialogue with Roy. Roy's quest in Two Brothers is to discover new colors for an initially greyscale world. As Roy completes dungeons he unlocks new colors to add to the game's palette. The demo I played took place at a swamp and included the overworld area leading to the swamp and an optional short dungeon with a mini-boss along the way. Combat is a mixture of melee sword attacks and projectile attacks. There are a few different sword attack motions, including a super charge up sword attack. In addition, Roy can use a bow to fire an arrow in a straight line across the screen. Roy can later find throwing stars that offer an upgraded spread attack, which worked well for clearing the screen of enemies. It seems the full game will offer many upgraded weapons and combo attacks that will create more depth to the combat. I did find some occasional inconsistencies with hit detection using the sword as the swing would sometimes visually appear to hit a target and not register. Ackk has confirmed this and a few other minor issues from the demo have since been cleaned up for the retail release.
Exploring the overworld area leading up to the swamp, I quickly stumbled across the entrance to a side dungeon that was adorned with what looked to be statues of pigs. The dungeon was small, with just a few rooms, and accompanied by a mini-boss named Wild Cat. Wild Cat stomped across the room in a pattern, pausing every so often to swipe his claws at Roy, dealing a good bit of damage when the swipe connected. After several attempts, the mighty Wild Cat was defeated and Roy was awarded a color. The newly-awarded color didn't really show up in the demo, but the short quick dungeon and challenge was refreshing. I look forward to many more of these bite-sized challenges in the full game. This dungeon was where I first experienced how Two Brothers handles character death. You do not actually fail or get a game over in Two Brothers as you are instead transported to some sort of afterlife area in the clouds above the world. Up here, one can look at a map of the world and see some interesting characters and statues whose relevance to the story isn't immediately clear. Simply jumping off the edge of this afterlife world quickly transports you back to the action using a checkpoint-like system. The death system is refreshing as the game can be challenging and Roy will die often. The afterlife system fits in seamlessly, and doesn't break immersion as a traditional reload system might.
After following some vague directions on sign posts scattered in the area, I finally discovered the swamp. Here, Roy's traveling companion left him and Roy tackled the swamp alone. Roy's solitude was short-lived as he was helped by a reptilian-looking stranger after he became trapped in some quicksand. This new friend tagged along and allowed entrance to the swamp's dungeon areas that were previously closed off to Roy. Many of the enemies in this dungeon are a bit easier than the outside area enemies, which came as a bit of a surprise, as enemies in dungeons are typically more difficult than in the areas preceding them. After navigating through the labyrinth, the pair met face to face with a gargoyle. After some dialogue and choices, the gargoyle was clearly not friendly and attacked. This was obviously the dungeon boss as he unleashed some devastating attacks that dropped rocks from the ceiling while he flew around the room. However, one rock fall destroyed the entrance door barrier that allowed Roy to step outside the room (and outside the apparent movement range of the boss) and attack the gargoyle from safety until it was defeated. This glitch was also confirmed by Ackk to have been identified and fixed in the final build and I was unable to get it to repeat in subsequent playthroughs. At the end of the battle, the gargoyle initiated Roy in conversation and he was forced to make more dialogue decisions. Being not quite sure of the impact of the choices as I made them, I picked those that lead to my reptilian friend seemingly sacrificing himself to kill the gargoyle so Roy could escape. A very large crocodile-like beast met Roy at the dungeon exit and gave Roy an explanation of what had just occurred and who he is. Following a few more dialogue choices, the reptilian god creature revealed the friend who helped was a servant of his and awarded Roy with color while giving some advice for his quest.
The music in the game is worth mentioning, as it is evident much effort and attention is being put into the Two Brothers soundtrack. The music blends in with the gameplay in a way that isn't noticeable or jarring yet really sets the tone of the area and somehow adds color and flavor to the environment. The Two Brothers music has a style all its own while clearly being influenced by past great musical scores. I have high expectations for the game's final score, thanks to the dedicated group of composers working on it and the samples of tracks in the demo.
My Two Brothers demo experience left me wanting more after my short trip into the swamp. From the graphics, gameplay style, challenge, and music, Two Brothers appears to combine retro charm and style with modern conventions and take the best from both worlds. Ackk Studios' attention to detail in all of these elements is impressive and is a good sign of things to come for the retail release. Being a demo, I experienced a few rough spots that should be cleaned in the final release, but nothing that should cause too much alarm. The game is loaded with potential, adding many little elements to a familiar genre, and fans of such should take notice of Two Brothers when it releases.