I loved the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers as a kid. Every day, I fought the rabbit ears on my black and white television to follow the series. I had the toys, I saw the movie, and I even wore a t-shirt once before becoming thoroughly aware that the Power Rangers were no longer cool in third grade. As I walked away with misty eyes from my childhood jeering, I couldn’t believe how quickly the acceptance for these helmeted heroes evaporated. Within the span of a year, the Rangers went from awesome to uncool, as they soared through the thin window of youthful tolerance. Thanks to its childish presentation and an erratic difficulty curve, this is a problem shared by Collision Studios’ Brave: A Warrior’s Tale.
Most aspects of the game aren’t what a gaming enthusiast would consider good, or even adequate. The important thing to realize is that Brave just isn’t for them, and conversely, neither is this review. This review is for parents who can hardly finish reading this paragraph because their child is wailing in the background, and quite possibly about to throw a pudding cup at the monitor. That parent will want to know if Brave will keep the little bast- err… bundle of love quiet long enough to justify the game’s $30 price. Unfortunately, several factors prevent Brave from earning this blanket recommendation.
The story of Brave: A Warrior’s Tale is standard fare for entertainment of this sort. Native American village chieftain Brave insists that all of the tribe’s children sit in a circle and listen to him recount his past – because this is what old people do. Once his tale begins, the player takes control of a younger Brave to play through the elder’s adolescent adventures. The game’s story continues with predictable betrayals and atonements that will bore anyone with a decent amount of body hair.
Brave’s visuals are simple, yet expressive. Characters are comically deformed, and likely to capture the interest of players too young to know what bump mapping is. Environments, on the other hand, are blank and featureless. The game offers minimal background detail or ground clutter, and does little to visually draw the player into the natural outdoorsy Native American wonderland it tries to create.
“Simple” is a mantra echoed by the game play, which features a basic mix of platforming and combat. Most of the game revolves around navigating reasonably open areas while mashing the attack button on whatever wolf, spider or other naturey thing crawls within tomahawk-bashing distance. Side diversions include possessing an animal, navigating a river with a canoe, and hopping on an eagle to dive-bomb enemies. These activities break up the bread-and-butter platforming nicely, and will hold a reasonable amount of interest from a hyperactive youngster. Environments change frequently as well, moving from an idyllic jungle to a desert and arctic tundra. In terms of play variety and pacing, Brave performs well.
However, several flaws will easily break Brave’s tenuous grasp over a child’s attention. The beginning of the game offers control tutorials via large blocks of text that will alienate players looking for instant gratification. The game’s music – though delivered via orchestra – is very generic and sountracky, never drawing players in. Provided that the player makes it through these issues without incident, the game’s spike in difficulty and drop in quality near the end will frustrate anyone, regardless of patience.
Platforming and combat is a breeze until the last twenty minutes of play, obviously out of consideration for the young’uns that don’t quite have the dexterous skills of a seasoned gamer. During the closing moments however, jumps become exacting, timing becomes critical, and the skill requirement soars way beyond what a 7-9 year old would have. It’s also worth noting that the end of the game shows a general lack of polish, as several platforms are so dark that they can’t be distinguished from the background, requiring blind leaps of faith.
Most confusing of all, the game interrupts what seems to be the final boss fight to snap the player back to the present day and embark on a fetch quest. The game literally progresses from the middle of a boss fight to a loading screen to this awkward conversation, leaving me to wonder if I had discovered a strange bug. The boss fight resumes after all of these items are found. Perhaps I’m over thinking it – well, I know I am – but what happened when Brave was fighting the last boss? Did they just call a truce for 80 years? Ending credits should inspire a lot of feelings in a gamer, but wordless confusion isn’t one of them.
Disjointed endings aside, these problems put Brave in an interesting position: the presentation and story are too childish to appeal to gamers that actually have the skill to complete it, and parents have much better (and cheaper) options for their children than what is offered here. Perhaps this review will save some kid the embarrassment of mistakenly assuming that it’s cool to talk about Brave at lunch.