Brave - The Video Game

8.5 Overall Score

Family friendly game mechanics | High fun factor

Overly sensitive motion controls

Written by on July 10, 2012 in [, , , , , , ]

Disney Interactive Studios is allowing gamers the chance to run around in the world of Pixar’s new movie Brave.  Players have the opportunity to play as Merida the princess-turned-heroine, Queen Elinor in giant bear form, and a will o’ the wisp.  This third person shooter begins by explaining the general plot of the film using watercolor on parchment storyboard graphics.  I would have preferred clips from the actual movie.  Pixar is king of tremendous animation graphics and these storyboards seem to be early sketches and have a completely different look than the final movie.  There are a few minor plot inconsistencies with the story presented in the movie which may be for expedient story telling.  In short, this a tale of a rebellious young princess in tenth century Scotland.  Her mum insists Merida live the restrictive life of a proper princess.  Mum has attempted to instill her values the best she knows how.  Merida, however, has other ideas for herself.  She wants to race through the woods on her trusty steed shooting arrows and learning swordplay rather than sitting pretty and giving her hand to the lucky prince to win it in the Highland Games.  She stumbles upon a witch who promises to help her “change” her mum.  As with most wishes, the result is a mess and turns her sweet mum into a giant bear and her younger triplet brothers into mischievous yet adorable bear cubs.  The player is then dropped into Merida’s world as she attempts to catch up to her poor mum-turned-bear.  Good ol’ mama bear eventually leads her to the Ring of Stones.  This mystical hub in the middle of the woods plays a key part in the film and in the game.  This hub is the central location the player will use to enter each level.  This is where the film and the game story part ways.

The game’s story says the demon bear known as Mordu has gone throughout the land scarring sacred stones and spreading evil gloom and darkness.  With the gloom and darkness comes a plethora of evil critters.  Merida decides she will cleanse all of the sacred stones in each area of her world by entering each portal in the Ring of Stones.   The game has an old school vibe and is full of retro gaming elements like the central hub.  From the hub the player enters into progressively harder levels.  The Ring of Stones starts out with a single level open to explore.  Each portal displays a pop up that shows the player what treasures you should find within that level.  This is helpful checklist for the player.  Treasure chests hidden throughout the level will hold these items which include pieces of tapestries that boost stats for the player’s damage and defense, new swords and bows that do more damage, and new outfits for Merida.  As Merida completes each level a new portal/level opens up.  This play style is reminiscent of old school games allowing the player to replay any level once it is opened to gather any goodies that were missed.  Once entering each level the game becomes a classic platformer.

As with most platformers, there is a ton of jumpity-jump-jump-jumping.  There is the single jump for steps, the double jump for higher or longer jumps.  To add to the challenge of jumping they even have walls that face each other to bounce back and forth between to climb even taller walls.  Anyone who knows me knows the fear I have of excessive jumping.  It is a deeply rooted fear that took hold as I began this game.  I was soon able to overcome the fear as the controls felt very intuitive.  Yes I still had hard times in some areas but nothing was impossible.  The retro gaming experience also includes coin and health potion collection.

Players must remember to take time to smack the flowers. I mean literally hit them, beat them, destroy them along with logs, vases, and barrels filled to bursting with lots of gold coins.  Killing beasties will drop coins as well as health potions to help refill the player’s health bar.  You must collect the loot (coins and health potions) very soon after they drop or they will start to blink then disappear.  The player must also make sure to explore each area thoroughly for hidden treasures before entering a doorway or a long pathway.  Like any typical platformer the player’s ability to backtrack will be blocked by fallen trees, gates, or some other barrier.

As Merida explores new levels she will find four different elemental runes.  There is a rune of earth, fire, wind, and ice.  Most of the creatures Merida must fight are extremely vulnerable against a particular elemental attack.  The element will appear above the creature’s head which is especially handy for younger or less experienced players to understand.  The player should switch to the corresponding rune to fight the creature.   This becomes more interesting in later levels when there are creatures that are vulnerable to different runes.  Here the player must switch quickly back and forth between the runes to defeat the enemies in the most efficient way possible.  I worried that this mechanic may become too confusing for the younger boys but even my nephew who had recently turned six years old was able to keep up with it.

The game has drop in/drop out couch co-op play.  Yes it would have been nice to have online co-op opportunities but the typical audience for this sort of game is younger kids and older “kids at heart.” Playing together which focuses more on a couch co-op play mechanic.  I personally appreciated the ability to play through the game as Merida with the aid of my three young nephews taking turns playing the wisp.  When they may have lacked the ability to complete some of the more complex tasks I could move ahead and pull them along.  The second player is a Will o’ the Wisp that has similar abilities to Merida.  This glowing blue jellyfish shaped creature of legend can move individually and aids Merida in her quest of defeating the gloom and darkness and the evil critters it produces. If one player loses all their health they are basically in time out for a few seconds then they revive and can continue the battle.  This was a handy feature.  Co-op gaming with much younger kids would have been a lot more difficult online.  It is much better to sit side by side and help each other through the game.  Since this game is hoping to attract family style play I can understand this choice.

One thing that would have made this even better would have been the option to have more than two players at a time.  I would have loved to play together with all three nephews as different colored wisps aiding me along the way.  Another family-friendly game mechanic is the wide range of difficulty settings.  Each setting makes the enemies progressively tougher to kill and they hit for more damage.  The difficulty ranges from easy, medium, hard, and finally brave.  The player can switch difficulty within the game at any time to fit their abilities.  This is a very handy option in a game meant for a wide range of abilities and ages.  Later levels of the game may best be handled by older and/or the more experienced game players since the last levels are extremely tough.  Perhaps these are meant to allow the kids to grow into the game but it could become extremely frustrating for them.  In that case they can still enjoy re-running the earlier levels and gathering more loot to unlock all of the available and extremely valuable upgrades.  The variety of gameplay is not limited to difficulty settings and single or multiplayer.

Sometimes the battle is tougher than even the bravest of young heroes can handle.  When an overwhelming number of enemies attack mama bear comes to the rescue.  Player one switches from Merida to mum to claw and pound the enemy into submission.  This was a nice and easy form of vengeance after the more challenging battles fought as Merida.  Attacks are much simpler and the damage mama bear can inflict is much greater.

Another feature of the game puts the feisty young triplets-turned-bear cubs to work.  There are several moments when a gate blocks Merida’s progress through a level.  This provides the opportunity for her baby brothers to solve a puzzle to open the gate.  Players control the actions of the triplets to move within the puzzle triggering switches using levers, buttons, and pulleys in the correct sequence until the gate opens.

In a completely separate game mode the player can try their skills as at the archery range.  This is the only area where the player can make use of motion controls.  Using the Move controller for the PS3 and the Kinect for the Xbox 360 the player shoots arrows at wooden targets.  There are three different challenges.  The first mode is called Quiver Limit.  Here the player shoots all of the arrows in their virtual quiver attempting to hit as many targets as they can.  The second game style is called “Survival.”  Here waves of wooden target enemies the player must kill before they win.  The last game style is called “Quick Draw” tests a player’s ability to be both fast and accurate.  The move controls seemed overly sensitive.  I found it difficult to keep my aim steady.  I liked the way they used the Move controller to use gestures that replicate pulling an arrow from my quiver then aiming it at a target.  I then pull the controller back as if I am readying the arrow for its flight.  Letting the trigger go launches the arrow towards the target.  I would have loved the ability to use the navigational controller to help steady my aim.

All in all this game had an extremely high fun factor for me and my nephews.  They kept begging me to play more of the game.  Family friendly options allow players to shape the gameplay to fit younger or less experienced gamers or challenge platforming geniuses in the crowd.  While this game sticks mainly to the classic platforming devices, I found it challenging and rewarding.  I would have preferred seeing more of Pixar’s genius in the graphics. But Pixar did include a free ticket code for the player to go see the Brave movie in the Regal theater of my choice which helped placate that concern considerably.  This happy bonus will also allow me to share my personal review of the movie in a separate post.  If you love the movie or hope to I recommend giving this game a try.  It is charming and as challenging as you want to make it.

A review copy of Brave was supplied to the Married Gamers for the purposes of this review.


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Author: Melisa Snyder View all posts by

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