Nukezilla Review: Brave: The Video Game (PC/Mac)
Author’s Note: This review is comprised almost entirely of spoilers. This is a tie-in game, and even descriptions of some of the gameplay mechanics could be considered spoilers. If this matters to you, why the hell are you reading a review for the game in the first place?
Brave: The Video Game follows Merida’s quest to remove Mor’du’s blighted curse on the land and save her family. It more or less follows the story of the film, but in the videogame, Merida spends more time fighting magical beasts and spirits summoned by Mor’du’s curse than trying to reconcile with her mother and learning important life lessons. Each level is played from Merida’s perspective, but with a few short sections featuring her mother or brothers.
Much of the game follows a fairly standard third-person action/platformer path, somewhat reminiscent of God of War in fact, with Merida slashing and shooting her way through waves of enemies and hopping from ledge to ledge. Attacks are mostly limited to either melee with her sword or ranged with her bow, and feature a fairly limited combo system.
The one bit of challenge Brave offers is the charm system. As the game progresses, Merida collects four elemental charms: Earth, Fire, Ice and Air. All attacks are one of these types, depending on which charm you have selected at the time. All enemies are weak against one type, but most of the early levels only feature one or two enemy types. Things get shuffled up a bit in later levels, so quickly switching back and forth becomes a necessary skill. I sometimes had trouble selecting the charm I wanted, but I think that was more due to an overly active scroll wheel than actual control problems, so it probably won’t be much of an issue for most gamers.
Brave takes another page out of God of War‘s book with its upgrade system. Coins found throughout the game, either through hacking and slashing vegetation and enemies, or by finding coin caches, are used to purchase upgrades to Merida’s health, damage, and a few power up moves. There isn’t enough gold to max out the upgrade tree in a single playthrough, but you can start a new game with your previous unlocks in place.
Queen Elinor, in bear form, is only playable for a few large-scale fights. In these she can either charge at enemies, run them down, or slash at them with her claws. She is much more powerful than Merida, and these sections never really feel that difficult. More prolonged fights with her would probably seem tedious, but as limited as they are, they don’t detract much from the game.
Merida’s brothers’ segments are puzzles centered around opening gates or doors, and are generally pretty clever. Keeping up their mischievous ways in bear form, the three cubs are controlled one at a time and have to work together to flip switches and other little tasks to help their big sister. I was worried that these segments would become a chore by the game’s end, but they managed to stay a welcome break from the action and platforming sections in the rest of the levels. While not the most brain-bending of puzzles, they were rarely stupidly simple, and an overall boon to the game.
Brave is an odd game to judge. There’s nothing really wrong with it, but there’s nothing exceptional either. The developers at Behavior Interactive (the studio behind WET, the aforementioned game adaptation of Rango, plus few dozen other licensed games) didn’t wow me with this one, but they didn’t just rush out a broken mess to meet the film’s release date either.
Fans of the film will have fun fighting their way across the Scottish highlands, but the game isn’t quite notable enough on its own merits for anyone else to fret over missing it.