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Brave: The Video Game

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Developer: Behaviour Interactive
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Brave: The Video Game isn’t a game I would recommend for everyone, yet at the same time, it is something I think a lot of people will actually enjoy. It’s a straightforward action game and fun. At the same time, it is aiming for a particular audience, so the more interesting play elements aren’t pushed as far as they probably could be.

I don’t envy any CG artist who needs to render hair or cloth, so I feel the artists who worked on Brave: The Video Game deserve a little extra credit for Merida’s video game debut. While not as complex a model as the movie, her dress and hair look as good as you could expect from current generation consoles.

Environments are just as impressive, especially given the variety. You’ll see everything from tree-filled forests to snowy fields to an old castle. I especially like how Merida comments on everything she sees. She’s not super wordy, but her comments add a lot to the presentation, particularly when she includes short stories about the location. Some of her comments will even echo what the player is thinking, such as Merida’s lamentation of having to cross too many moving platforms.

If there are any major failings in presentation, it is the camera. Though locked, it is sometimes very hard to get an accurate idea of where certain platforms are. Once airborne, you have Merida’s shadow to help, though I can’t tell you the number of times I completely misjudged distances. I only mention this because I can see some younger players getting a bit frustrated after one too many missed jumps.


Gameplay:

In its own way, Brave: The Video Game enhances Brave. Unlike the movie, the game actually gives Merida something to do. She has a bigger quest that ties into the legend of Mor’du, the monstrous black bear.

Outside a set of story sequences during the first level, most of the storytelling is left to Merida’s in-level dialogue and the levels. Brave is a straight-on action game, but adds in light puzzle sequences using her elemental charms, exploration and her triplet brothers.

Levels are linear, but feature some exploration and clever use of elemental charms. For instance, the Ice Charm enhanced arrows to freeze platforms, opening the way to new areas. New areas are, unfortunately, way too obvious – so you should manage to find everything on your first play. This isn’t a major issue; the core action is a lot of fun, but the Elemental Charm mechanic is so neat, it is a shame to see it not used for more than a few obvious puzzles.

Brave offers co-op play, which is a lot of fun and should offer parents a chance to help younger players through some of the game’s more challenging fights, or with some of the trickier charm-based puzzles.

Sequences with Merida’s bothers find you switching between the triplets, manipulating platforms so one can eventually reach a lever. As is the case with Elemental Charms, the underlying idea is great; these sequences are a lot of fun. At the same time, the idea is rarely pushed out of a restricted comfort zone. It’s tuned for younger players, which is to be expected, but I’m also a proponent of giving even younger players more challenge.

Brave includes Kinect support, though you don’t have to have a Kinect to play the game. Kinect is used for an Archery Challenge set of mini-games, though they aren’t much fun and seem like something that was tagged on just to say the game supports Kinect.


Difficulty:

Brave: The Video Game was a humbling experience. Based on previous experience, I started on “Brave” difficulty expecting little challenge. I was correct too, right up until the third level, at which point I dropped down to “Medium.”

So yeah, completing the game on “Brave” is completely Achievement worthy, though doing so is also an exercise in patience and requires a bit of luck. On “Brave,” I noticed a major gap between the amount of damage Merida can inflict and enemy health. At the same time, enemies dish out loads of damage as well (sometimes 3 hits was enough). This wouldn’t be an issue were it not for Brave’s penchant for tossing lots of enemies at you within a small, enclosed area. It’s fun, but hectic and mildly frustrating – sometimes requiring “cheap” tricks to survive.

Lower difficulty levels are less of a hassle. “Medium” is ideal, while “Hard” ramps up the challenge just enough without treading into the punishment that is “Brave.” I recommend “Hard” for co-op play.


Game Mechanics:

Much of Brave: The Video Game is centered on solving puzzles with Merida’s bow. She has a sword, but unless I knew the sword would deal more damage to an enemy, I mostly opted for the bow. The shooting mechanic is tied to the Right Analog Stick, which is really smart move. Enemies swarm from all angles; so hitting the stick on one direction makes a lot of sense. It also feels really cool, especially when you need to hit targets in rapid succession.

You can flip through the four Elemental Charms at any time. During any given battle, you can find yourself switching through as many as three charm types. Enemies will take damage regardless of your equipped charm, though you’ll want to swap to the ideal one just for crowd control.

After cleansing spirit stones, Merida can purchase new abilities using gold awarded for killing enemies. The new abilities are great, though the pricing for certain abilities seems too steep for the amount of coins awarded and length of the game. The pricing is meant to encourage replay, and as much as I kept going back to Brave, it was disheartening to go through an entire level and only manage to purchase one upgrade.

Walt Disney once said, “You're dead if you aim only for kids,” and I really can’t think of a better way to summarize Brave. It’s a solid, enjoyable game, but at the same time, I really wish some of the play elements went a little further than they do. Between the Elemental Charms and Triplet puzzles, Brave offers up a number of interesting ideas that seem too restricted due to the intended audience. Kids are smarter than we usually give them credit for, so even just a couple of steps out of the “safe zone” probably would have been enough.

Regardless, I can’t see many people not having a little fun with Brave. It has found a spot as a fun, not too demanding palette cleanser between other releases. If I had kids, it is something I could see myself playing with them, which is probably where Brave will find its biggest audience.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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