Some will look at a game like The Other Brothers and begin to worry that games are becoming a bit too self-aware. Yes, The Other Brothers is an indie game that acts as a gutsy, tongue in cheek rip on the most famous videogame characters of all time. It’s a bold move. However, I can’t help but be charmed by The Other Brothers’ take on the story of a couple of brothers living in a dangerous world and adventuring to save a damsel in distress. Like a gritty, modernized update of classic literature, The Other Brothers does something new with well-worn thematic and gameplay elements.
Our heroes in The Other Brothers are Joe and Jim. They are car mechanics, but I like to think of them more as Mushroom Kingdom rejects, or perhaps the original real-life characters that Mario and Luigi were based on. Replacing the blue-skyed world of turtles, goombas and shiny coins, the world of The Other Brothers is a grimy city filled with Mafia baddies, oil cans, giant cogs and barking dogs. In other words, Jim and Joe’s choice of occupation is far from the only thing separating this game from its NES inspiration.
The hostile urban landscape in The Other Brothers is truly impressive. These are not your ordinary linear 2D platforming stages, and that is what sets The Other Brothers apart. These massive levels sprawl out in every direction, giving players lots of room to explore and many different paths to take. Rarely in a 2D platformer have I felt the desire to go back and take different paths, but in The Other Brothers I found myself returning to levels before even moving on to the next ones.
Sure, if you want to you can run straight ahead and get through some of the levels fairly quickly. But the fun of The Other Brothers is letting yourself follow a line of oil cans down a rabbit trail to discover one of the hidden collectibles or a new section of the world entirely. I’m happy to report that you won’t find any floating platforms or ladders falling from the sky—everything here fits in the environment, making exploration even that more interesting.
But the big story with The Other Brothers has been the controls.
Upon initial release, the controls in The Other Brothers were an absolute disaster. The moveable virtual D-pad made the game pretty much unplayable, despite the developers’ claims that they would revolutionize touch screen platforming. After a pretty quick update, The Other Brothers features a number of control options and customization, even including button size and placement. In the end, you are sure to find a control scheme that works for you and Simian Squared has done a good job of addressing initial complaints. However, The Other Brothers still has not convinced me that a touch screen is a more viable platform for 2D platformers—I still found myself wanting a physical controller in my hands, which is a feeling that many players will experience after they miss a jump or run right over a ledge a few times.
Despite the possibly detrimental hiccup over the original control scheme, The Other Brothers feels like an accomplishment on so many levels. It’s playful, immersive, interesting, lighthearted, and unexpected all at once, doing for Super Mario what the modernized 1996 version of Romeo + Juliet did for Shakespeare. It’s not perfect, but it delivers on its ambitious vision in a spectacular way.
The Other Brothers
Developer: Simian Squared
Publisher: 3D Attack Interactive
Release date: 04/04/13