Pixar is back with its latest animated movie and the obligatory video game tie in showed up at my doorstep recently. Brave makes for a pretty decent video game tie-in. It boils down to an exploration/platforming game, with a bit of fighting and puzzle-solving along the way. Pleasant graphics, 2-Player options, and RPG-like upgradeable abilities add to make this a recommended game for family play. Details after the jump…
In Brave, you play as Merida, the female lead protagonist, who sets off to right the wrongs of her youthful impulsive decision-making. Most of the game is spent exploring areas to discover coins and other goodies scattered around the landscape (in old logs, plants, a few chests, etc…) Every few minutes or so, Merida encounters enemies to fight. Defeating enemies provides coins which can be used to upgrade Merida’s combat abilities or the abilities of her will-o-wisp companion (for 2 player co-op mode).
Combat is quite enjoyable, as there are some nice decisions to be made both in what aspects to upgrade and how to approach a combat. Along the way, Merida obtains four types of charms associated with basic elements (earth, air, fire, and ice). Her attacks are enhanced by whichever charm is selected at the moment, and these can be easily changed in the midst of combat. This is important because most monsters have a weakness to one element type (easily marked on their body).
Using the appropriate element vs monsters is key to easier combats. Each element grants a slight bonus to combat when selected. The fire burns the enemies over time while air-enhanced hits push the enemy back. In addition, Merida has special power-up maneuvers that she can unlock and upgrade to grant her unique powers for each element. The earth element, for example will launch one or more minion creatures which run towards the enemy and blow up. Another element’s power-up includes a large “wave” of arrows for an area attack.
All these options in combat become useful, as later combats in the game start to include monsters that each have different weaknesses. For example, in one combat I fought off wolves with one element, then switched to air to take down large walking yeti-type rock creatures. This diversity of options in combat (as well as options as you upgrade your character) gives the game a nice bit of decision-making to create a platform/exploration game that rises above normal fare.
For variety’s sake, the game has two more game modes that occur in levels from time to time. One in which you play Merida’s bear companion (which has its own style of combat, complete with upgradeable moves). The other mode is a very puzzle-oriented one where you control Merida’s three younger brothers (one at a time) and have them push & pull levers while walking around an area in order to unlock a gate or some such thing blocking Merida’s path. While neither mode takes up overly much of the game, they provide a nice counter-point to the basic platform/exploration game.
Rather than drag the game down, Brave’s movie tie-in provides a rich background world to draw on in order to present a very decent platform video game. While the puzzles are not particularly mind-bending, there are several levels of combat difficulty so gamers who want a steep challenge can have their bragging rights. Parents playing along with younger kids can change the difficulty settings on the fly to scale the game down to appropriate player abilities. While I played the Wii version, the 360 and PS3 versions have a bonus Kinect and Move (respectively) set of archery minigames. I did have a slight issue with the Wii sword controls. To use Merida’s sword, one has to swing the Wiimote around. I found this not that responsive and rather unnatural. It seemed much more tacked on to the Wii title rather than something designed from the ground up. It would have been much nicer to have an alternate button for players who would prefer not to have to waggle the Wiimote with mixed results in the midst of a heated combat.
In any case, the game has very few weaknesses and is a surpisingly strong title for a movie-tie in. Any gamer looking for a game based on the movie will not be disappointed. Fans of the combat-oriented exploration/adventure style gameplay should also check it out.
Kid Factor: Not much of a problem here with the base E10+ rating. The content is such that the game is easily played by a younger audience. As long as a child can handle the Wiimote plus the nunchuck (or equivalent controller on your game console of choice), the game’s settings are such that it’s an entirely enjoyable game. The only word of warning I might give is the spooky witch who plays a part early in the game and the evil bear who serves as the game’s antagonist are a bit dark, but shouldn’t be a problem for any but the most sensitive of kids.