Brothers : A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons (BATOTS) is an adventure game developed by Starbreeze Studios and published by 505 Games on numerous platforms. It has received critical acclaim, having won the award for Best XBOX Game (2013) at VGX Award Show and Best Game Innovation Award (2014) at British Academy Games Awards. The game has the option of co-op or single player and takes place in a fantasy world filled wth fictitious creatures like orcs and trolls. It brings you a puzzle solving experience involving the story of two young brothers on a fairy tale journey to find the “Water of Life”, a cure for their father’s illness.

#9 : Lens of the Elemental Tetrad


One of the essential elements and what I deem as the key for immersing players into the game is the constant need to interact between the brothers in order to progress in the game. I played this game with my brother and used the co-op function where we control one player each. Although both players have the same set of controls, most (if not all) puzzles require some form of collaboration between players to complete. In a sense, this naturally implies the need for communication between players which keeps players engaged throughout the gameplay. Even for single player mode, the player has to strategically decide how and when to move each of the brothers simultaneously to proceed.

Although the controls and mechanics of the game are fairly simple, the puzzle-solving aspect of the game makes the gameplay more dynamic – different situations require different approaches or combinations of controlling the characters. Players have the basic movement options like moving in 4 directions (left, right, up, down), jumping, grabbing and climbing.


The game provides a fantasy-based setting, where most of the entities are fictitious. It has the otherwordly feel which helps isolate the story into a specific “mini world”, where it focuses only on one problem. This gives the story a more coherent flow as the side plots are easily tailored to support the main storyline. The main conflict in the story was that the brothers’ father fell heavily ill and as sons, they wanted to find a cure. Emphasis was given on the “Water of Life” as the possibly only solution to save their father, hence the motivation to set on a journey to obtain it.

Personally, I feel that there is beauty in having a simple plot or context and expanding on it during the journey itself via tasks instead of introducing more complicated problems that digress from the main resolution. The game is well-made in a sense that it utilizes the potential setbacks or difficulties during the journey to be the puzzle-solving aspect, thus weaving in the plot and gameplay more seamlessly. Despite the storyline being simple, a plot-twist is introduced in the end which was impactful because (i) the plot involves kinship and death which makes it highly relatable to the human life, (ii) the journey gameplay gives time for players to get invested into the story and form attachment towards the character and (iii) it leaves players with thought-invoking topics and perspectives towards the ending. The plot ends in a conclusive (in terms of what factually happened) yet leaves you reflecting on life decisions and thinking back deeply about whether the journey was worth it in the first place.


The graphics did a beyond impressive job at extending that immersive experience to make the fantasy more convincing. The lighting and illumination gave the game a dream-like feel, hence accentuating the aspect of fiction in the setting. Additionally, since the tale takes place in a rural environment, the sounds of nature and human-made noises are amplified to set the mood and context. For example, you will hear sounds from birds chirping, wood knocking and people going about their daily duties. At this point it doesn’t just feel like a game but a movie that indulges you in the presence of a society, and you will be left with wanting more!


BATOTS is available on many platforms, ranging from PC to controllers. Depending on the platform you use, the difficulty level of the gameplay may vary. For example, playing in co-op mode and sharing a keyboard may be more difficult than having a controller each.

#44 Lens of Cooperation

Cooperation is one of the core mechanics of the game. When playing the game, my brother and I found ourselves taking turns to lead the path and being the supporter in solving the puzzles. This involves constant communication and understanding of each other’s skillset. Some players may be more skilled in parkour-based controls whereas some can plan more strategically. This game hones on the chemistry between the players and utilizes their individual strengths in order to come to decisions effectively. Not only do you have to progress, but you have to progress together because the camera only pans when both players are within the same frame or in a certain proximity.

One thing I found interesting was that since I played with my brother, it felt like we were a translation of the brothers in the game itself and that gave a real touch to the experience, almost as if this story was ours.

#50 Lens of Character

BATOTS brings a unique twist to reality in a sense that it incorporates civilization invention, materials and entities into the adventure. For example, players have to use man made bridges to crossover and start throwing sheeps around to act as weight. It gives a sense of humor when solving the tasks and puzzles because of how it contrasts with how we usually use or behave around such entities in the actual world. Another memorable component of the gameplay is also how trolls are central to the development and progress of the quest. They act as friendly aid to the players to open up more avenues for exploration, almost as if they were the key to our freedom. It plays into the idea of fiction and having fictitious entities expand the possibilities our imagination.

To build on the concept of trolls, I noticed that the trolls had faces resembling that of humans, and thought that this might be the reason why I felt safe in their company. The trolls resemble humans in their actions, reactions and appearance and that they are much bigger in size compared to the brothers. The brothers’ mother had died at the start and their father fell sick, hence they only have each other to rely on. The trolls could possibly symbolize as the guide and protector of the brothers. If so, this was a really nice touch to showcase or imply the inner feelings of the main characters.

#55 Lens of Visible Progress

On the note of progress, I liked that there were indications and clues provided throughout the gameplay to signify that my brother and I were one step closer to obtaining the “Water of Life”. What BATOTS did was to show that there was a change in the environment and mood of the avenues explored. This included changes in platforms, type of strategies used to solve the tasks and the characteristics of the entities encountered. This progression was also more seamless because of the nature of the mechanics, where the puzzles and tasks depends on the available resources in the environment and how players can potentially interact with them. There is also a visible change in climate, where you get to experience being in different temperatures and the four elements (i.e fire, water, earth, air). Interestingly, as the brothers got deeper into the adventure, the altitude of the platform and environment gradually increases too.

#54 Lens of Accessbility

BATOTS alternates between story plot and actual gameplay quite frequently, though the transitions are not abrupt. This actually helps preempt the players when they need to solve the puzzles presented to them in the environment. Despite the flow being non-abrupt, the switch is significant or noticeable enough to indicate that its time for the player to watch or act. The game also makes use of camera pannings, music changes and vocals to transition between the switches. The puzzles are easy to adapt to due to the clearly defined space given to players to explore when carrying out the tasks. The possible strategies are also highly visual based which eases players into the problem solving situation.

Overall Thoughts

Overall this experience has been nothing short of amazing. Despite it being a pretty short gameplay, my brother and I had fun discussing how to solve the tasks and being immersed into a new world together. Though BATOTS captures impressive graphics and feel of the game, I do believe that there could be more depth in the characters and how they feel throughout the journey. Yet, perhaps the whole point of not being more explicit with the emotions of the characters was to ride on the imagination and personal feelings of the players themselves. Each player feels and interprets differently, and there could be beauty in not excessively restricting the emotion flow throughout the gameplay. This might also be the reason how BATOTS was able to leave players with an impactful and thought-provoking ending.

Dance Central (VR 2019) : A Music Rhythm Experience

Dance Central VR is not just any game, it’s an experience – a lifestyle. You can now indulge in a virtual partying or clubbing environment at the convenience of being at home. Yet, it is also not just a place to gather and dance together, but to also interact with characters in the scene and feel safe to unleash your hidden dance talents. If you have played and enjoyed the past titles of non-VR Dance Central, this game takes your music immersion to the next level.

Seamless Flow from Previous Titles

Harmonix has released various versions on non-VR platforms prior to the 2019 VR version. They have made a noticeable effort to keep characters who were previously present in the older versions. For seasoned players of this series, it gives them a sense of instant connection with the game and it feels less foreign to be dancing with familiar appearances. For newer players, it gives them relevant insights on how other versions are like without having to play them. The game mechanics remain the same for the essential part – the dancing itself. Players still get to choose their favourite tracks and emulate dance moves shown on the screen. As an upgrade, what I really appreciate is the fact that the characters now are more diverse in culture, experiences and also proportions. This adaptation made it more relatable for users as it mirrors the real society’s current efforts to embrace differences in people across the globe

Usage of Characters

The characters are used as a way to provide dance tutorials and a guide for users to visually learn how to dance by copying what they see. I was impressed by the amount of thought placed into designing the characters, as the level of interaction with them is sufficiently deep to immerse you into a whole new social circle whenever you play. Each character has a story to tell, and they are highly relatable to real life scenarios (such as wealth and daddy issues). The mode of interaction requires you to be familiar with the environment and players can text them or even receive a voice message from them! What is really interesting is that despite having a fixed set of songs to dance with, the same song feels different when you dance with different people. In a sense, the game discreetly provides different game paths through the emotions and experience with the characters so that players will constantly find entertainment at their own will.

Ambience and Setting

Together with the presence of interactions within the game, the environment plays a very big significance in making the whole gameplay feel real. You will really feel as if you are partying you are the main character in the club. When you hit combos and the song gets more hyped up, the mood changes are further enhanced by animations and lighting around you and your dance partner. The loading of tracks are also seamless and does not take you out of the experience. Such subtle differences contribute to the emotions players may experience as they dance throughout the songs, thus intrinsically providing motivation to perform better.


Players can dance alone or with other players in battles. From my personal experiences as a dancer, dance battles in our society are seen more of an exchange, appreciating each other’s hard work and celebrating successes. In this case, the idea of incorporation battles as competition brings this concept over to the virtual world and makes the competitiveness more natural and welcoming. It feels more like a gathering – which links with the setting and story. Even when dancing alone, it brings positive emotions and players can treat it as a self competition, where they practice to be better versions of themselves. This approach provides entertainment and incentives without disturbing the core essence of what it is to enjoy dancing for yourself and with others.

Room for improvement

A possible downside is that despite the characters having strong interactions, the depth of story and plot is not consistent across characters. This means that players may tend to be closer to certain characters over time because they simply offer more. A viable option is to add more story or plot to the characters lacking in it. However, I feel that the connection you feel with someone may not necessarily be proportional to the amount of information you know about each other. Rather, perhaps a better way would be to improve on the frequency of initiative taken by the character(s) to contact the player during gameplay so that more meaningful impressions can be made.

Personal thoughts

Overall, this game gives players a highly stable and holistic VR rhythm experience. It even includes small details such as having a wardrobe of clothes to choose from and dress up before entering the club, having people welcome you as you navigate into the area and possessing a personal phone to play tracks or communicate with others. Fun fact : your interaction with one character affects how another character might perceive their interaction with you. Personally I would say there are no misses in this game, only hits (and combos).