Typically movie based games cause me to cringe whenever I see them, but Disney Interactive’s latest game Brave was a pleasant surprise. Games structured off of Disney properties are becoming more and more exciting to play simply because they are providing a much stronger gaming experience than in the past. Brave is a solid title that brings a fun gaming experience for family oriented gamers. Sure, it isn’t a perfect game by any means, however I must admit that I did have fun playing it.
In Brave you take control of the movie’s heroine, Merida, as she battles to defeat what the locals call the demon bear Mor’du. By Defeating Mor’du she hopes to lift a curse. As the film and its trailer would suggest, Merida is not a traditional damsel in distress. She is strong and independent, and quite handy with her bow and sword. This is a nice change of pace from Disney’s traditional princesses, and her weaponry skills make her a perfect fit for a video game protagonist.
The game begins shortly after Elinor, Merida’s mother, has been turned into a bear. Elinor is seen running from the castle, and Merida is in close pursuit behind her. For the majority of the game, you’ll be playing as Merida, though there are short sections in most levels where you take control of Elinor and find yourself able to brawl while in bear form. Elinor is much less mobile than Merida, but she lacks in mobility she makes up in raw power. Elinor is a lot of fun to play as, and it serves as a nice way to change up the pacing of the game.
As mentioned earlier, Merida is the main focus for Brave. You swing your sword with a single button, and use Merida’s bow by aiming the right stick in the direction you want to fire. Having always been a fan of twin-stick shooters it pleased me to see it was implemented so well. It’s easy to take shots at the attacking wolves and malicious tree spirits from afar and then switch to the sword when they get too close. Targeting is generally accurate and I rarely ran into difficulties that involved the controls.
The console versions of Brave feature bonus mini games that appear on the main menu if you have the appropriate hardware, such as the Kinect for the Xbox 360. The three mini games are Quick Draw, Quiver Limit and Survival. Quick Draw has you firing arrows as fast as possible. Quiver Limit has you shooting targets with a limited number of arrows, and Survival has you shooting an unlimited number of targets for as long as you can last. If you excel at the mini games you are rewarded with gold, which can be used for purchasing upgrades to Merida’s combat techniques. If you are without the ability to play the mini games it will not hurt the main game experience for you.
Collectibles are scattered throughout levels, and they provide you the ability to upgrade Merida’s existing skills. They also allow you to purchase new and more advanced combat techniques. I did notice that if you choose to pursue some of the alternate paths presented while exploring the stages, you will find an incredible amount of collectibles. This is certainly a big incentive to explore these alternative routes. That being said, if you don’t scour the levels for collectibles, you’ll wind up with a full arsenal of abilities regardless.
There are eight stages in total, and each one runs you anywhere from a half hour to 45 minutes. Combat is kept exciting as enemies have elemental weaknesses, and you can swap between the appropriate magical attacks to defeat them quickly. Weapon effects are varied and can be charged up for different results. These enhanced moves include such things as an ice effect that temporarily holds enemies captive or an earth-based attack that spawns explosive sprites to lend a hand to name two. Much like the collectibles that provide upgrades, enemies and flora that are destroyed scatter coins everywhere. These coins can also be used to enhance Merida’s techniques. Brave offers a surprisingly large amount of character progression, and this really helps to maintain a player’s interest in any action title.
To send out a family game without local co-op play would be silly, and Disney Interactive is well aware of this. The developers of Brave made a creative decision in approaching the two-player action; a second player can join in as a friendly wisp. This character can die as many times as they want, and can appear next to Merida at the press of a button. This character allows younger players or inexperienced gamers to enjoy playing Brave with their friends, all while not having to worry about hampering the experience for the other player.
Brave’s visual presentation is a mixed bag. At first glance the game looks quite nice, with a strong design reminiscent of the movie, and a great choice of colors to set the mood in each of the games separate levels. Unfortunately, some odd hiccups do exist that detract from the visual impact. For example, the frame rate takes heavy hits at the most unexpected times. Typically one may expect a game to slowdown during a visually intense moment with a lot going on; however, I noticed that frame rate drops would occur when the camera panned out to reveal more of the landscape. It is jarring and noticeable. These small hindrances bring down an otherwise decent looking game. Even with this issue though they captured the spirit of the movie nicely and the visuals provide an appropriate mood to the game.
The audio department in Brave is solid. The soundtrack is fun to listen to, and is fitting for the game with its orchestral score. The voice acting is well done, and reminiscent of the movie or trailers, and the music, with its mostly Scottish roots, provide the game with a great feel. If anything the audio gets the job done, and in any game this is something we always ask for.
Overall Brave was a very pleasant surprise. The core gameplay was simple, yet fun and engaging. The progression and element-based combat offered enough variety to keep me entertained, and the game’s co-op play provided an enjoyable experience that didn’t have to be taken too seriously. Sadly, the fun doesn’t last very long with the game clocking in at around five hours. That being said, Brave possesses a unique charm, and should be considered if you are on the lookout for a well made kid-friendly title to add to your collection.