Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons Remake Review

March 5, 2024


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Xbox Series

It seems we’re in the era of the remake, whether we asked for it or not. Spotting Capcom’s success with ground-up remakes of titles like Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, and erm, Resident Evil 4, developers are clamouring to jump on the remake train to milk nostalgia for all it’s worth. In the last couple of years alone, we’ve had new versions of games that are barely a decade old (The Last of Us Part 1), games that fans were desperate to see brought into the modern era (Final Fantasy VII) and games that fit somewhere in between (Dead Space). 

Remakes should not be confused with remasters, of course, where a game is just given a fresh coat of paint and otherwise left untouched. These often have mixed results, as the Grand Theft Auto Trilogy and the latest Tomb Raider release would attest. It could be argued that a remake is a great way to bring an old game to new eyes, but also a fantastic opportunity to fix issues with the original, improve and expand on a story, or otherwise go all-out and turn an original PS1 masterpiece into a sprawling three-game PS5 masterpiece featuring a dude with a massive sword. Did we need Isaac to be fully voiced on board the Ishimura? Not really, but my goodness it made the story pop. Are Leon’s adventures in Raccoon City enhanced by a completely new game engine? You bet. Were fans screaming for it? No, but look at the rapturous reception it received when it landed. 

You, umm, have something on your back.

So it’s a bit of an oddity to see a remake of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons land on next-gen consoles. It’s probably a good idea to say this from the outset: the original was one of my all-time favourite gaming experiences when it was released back in 2013. Crafted by filmmaker Josef Fares (he of A Way Out, It Takes Two, and “Fuck the Oscars!” fame), Brothers was his first dabble in video game directing and it was an absolute corker. Given the first game is still available to play through backwards compatibility, however, it makes this remake puzzling — mainly because there is barely anything different to the original here, other than enhanced graphics. It’s a remaster wearing the clothing of a remake, and as such, feels like a missed opportunity even though the source material is as wonderful as it ever was.


At its core is a unique “solo co-op” experience. You take control of two brothers, Naia and his younger sibling Naiee who, after a sombre introductory scene, set off on a quest to find medicine for their sick father. Each brother is simultaneously controlled by one thumbstick and one trigger button, which involves the kind of spatial awareness that might make your brain melt — at least for the first few minutes. The tutorial guides you around your village, letting you interact with the townsfolk while getting used to the control system. Each brother elicits different reactions from people. The more mature Naia is the driving force, always looking for the way forward and (literally) pointing you in the direction you need to go. Naiee is the cheeky youngster, stomping on roofs, splashing water in people’s faces and rocking elderly people’s chairs too hard. 

Whoever built these dungeons had a lot of time on their hands

However, this is a journey of growth and discovery and the two brothers have complementary skills to help them progress. Naiee’s small frame can slip between railings to get to out of reach places. Naia has the strength to boost his brother up cliffs, pull weighty levers, and swim across dangerous water with Naiee on his back. Between them you’ll encounter foes who may actually be friends and vice versa, as well as obvious perils such as a vicious dog or pack of wolves. 

The landscapes you navigate have been wonderfully recreated for the PS5, from majestic snowy mountaintops to a grim battlefield littered with the corpses of giants. I’m torn about the upgrade of the character models, however. There was something endearingly cartoonish about the brothers in the original, and the remake certainly allows for more realistic facial expressions, but at the cost of some of its charm. The colours, too, are far more muted in some areas than the bright Xbox 360 version. 

Reminiscent of Team Ico’s world

There isn’t a huge amount of challenge in the puzzles, it has to be said. You’re either pulling levers to move platforms, manipulating other parts of the environment, or some variation on the two to progress. The challenges are depicted creatively, though — navigating the giant corpses is both bloody and unintentionally hilarious — and you’ll find yourself whizzing through the game at pace. Even if you stop to take in the vistas at each of the carefully placed benches dotted throughout, or get sidetracked with smaller side tasks such as helping an ostracised white rabbit get accepted by his black brethren, you’ll finish the game in three to four hours. 

There is a clear bond between the boys

And herein lies my biggest gripe with this remake: developer Avantgarden Games had the opportunity to properly flesh out the world, add more puzzles, locations and story, but they didn’t. It’s essentially a like-for-like remake, shinier and prettier, but with nothing new of note. The orchestral soundtrack — recorded from scratch — is wonderful, but some players may find the fictional language the cast of characters use to be a little irritating. However, the same criticism could be levelled at the 2013 version and I personally didn’t mind it. The real shame is the missed opportunity to do something more with the world. There are some truly heart-rending scenes which I cannot spoil here, as well as a couple of joyous punch-the-air moments. I’d have loved to have seen more of these. 

Look, just follow this vague map and get back here. Simple.

And then there’s the couch co-op. It’s been implemented to allow two players to each control a brother, and as far as that goes, it succeeds. Communicating with each other about timings when you’re working together to swing across vast chasms is a lot more fun than you’d think given you only have two inputs to think about on the controller. But — and this is a big but — anyone who has played the original will know that there is a crucial moment in the game which integrates the control system with the story in such a momentous way that it makes you gasp. OK, well it made me gasp eleven years ago, and I stand by it today, but you simply cannot replicate that moment in couch co-op. You can switch from co-op to single-player mode and have both brothers controlled by one person, which is what I did to let my partner experience the moment I’m referring to, but if you have been used to playing with only one brother for the entire game then the effect is simply not the same. Even the developer appears to recognise this, given the starting blurb states the optimal way to play Brothers is solo and that the experience will not be what was originally intended. And that is a real shame, as if there had been a way to replicate that effect in true co-op, it would have been something special. 

Someone forgot their armbands

What’s more annoying is that the quality of life improvements you’d expect from a remake are not there. Why can we not skip cutscenes before boss encounters, for instance? The achievements are pretty much the same too, so even here there’s nothing particularly new for players who completed the game a decade ago. It says something about the striking nature of Brothers and its cinematography that many of the scenes are still as memorable today as they were in 2013, but the lack of surprise might disappoint those expecting something more. No-one was looking for a Final Fantasy VII-style reimagining of an indie hit, and it’s only priced at a quid more than the original on the PlayStation store, but I can’t help wondering exactly why it’s been remade with so little changed to justify it. If you’ve never played the original, I would happily urge you to get this version, ditch the couch co-op and experience it solo as it was meant. If, like me, you loved the first, then this remake is basically a nostalgia trip which feels either like a lovely return to a world filled with wonder, or a slightly pointless retread, depending on how good your memory is.

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Brothers ticks all of the same boxes of its 2013 predecessor, with the same powerful story beats, simple control system and stunning upgraded graphics, but fans of the original will be left mourning what could have been if more had been added to its luscious and varied world.
Rob Kershaw

I've been gaming since the days of the Amstrad. Huge RPG fan. Planescape: Torment tops my list, but if a game tells a good story, I'm interested. Absolutely not a fanboy of any specific console or PC - the proof is in the gaming pudding. Also, I like cake.