It is no small feat to try to follow in Mario’s footsteps. The mustachioed plumber is as synonymous with gaming as Google is with the internet; a giant of the times. The Super Mario franchise is remarkable in its longevity, and honestly, many gamers still find loads of fun replaying Mario’s older escapades. So when a new platformer comes along trying to update gameplay which arguably doesn’t need updated, it is placed in an interesting position. This is the place The Other Brothers falls, and much like Google copycat Bing, it tries, but can’t quite supersede its predecessor.
The Other Brothers is a pixellated platformer that follows two sibling plumbers-sorry, mechanics, who set out to rescue a princes-sorry, damsel, after she is kidnapped by gangsters. Unlike Mario, The Other Brothers decides to try to press its plot well past acceptance, and it eventually reaches ridiculous and flat-out disorienting levels (not to mention it ends on a cliffhanger). That’s not a tremendous deal, I suppose, since many won’t come to a platformer for a dramatic narrative. But the under-polished framing for the events within is still a huge missed opportunity, since a “modernized” platformer seems ripe for a driving story.
The game handles like a traditional sidescrolling platformer, with large amounts of jumping, some scattered collectibles, and enemies who have weak skulls ready to be leaped on; all themed around the game’s modern, grungy setting. Pigeons roost throughout the levels, and each one acts much like rings from Sonic, preventing the Bros. from dying instantly when hit; and oil cans replace traditional level-permeating coins, but don’t seem to serve a purpose other than to increase the player’s score. It should be apparent even from reading this review, that the game is far from “fresh” and innovative.
The mechanics are time-tested, but are in dire need of some fresh grease to keep them running well. Enemy designs are bland, and the environments are dreary and fail to drive the gameplay. Even the peripherals like the game’s two power-ups lack any “punch”, and feel cheap and quickly tacked on. The game’s difficulty is also an issue; I found enemies seemed to be able to inflict unholy amounts of damage with a single punch (or bullet), putting all my pigeon collecting to waste. Whereas other games present engaging challenge, The Other Brothers just comes off as frustrating.
The game’s length is too problematic. It’s almost sinfully short, with only a handful of levels that could be tackled under a couple of hours, sans attacking every enemy and collecting all pick-ups within. There was no desire for me to replay the game, either, because achieving a pointless high score seemed to be my only “reward”. The developers, probably in an effort to prevent such a criticism, leave a sign at the end of the level select: “Coming Soon…Free DLC, The Adventure Continues!”. However, I certainly can’t review a game based on content that doesn’t exist.
The touch controls don’t help the game along, mostly due to the usual handicap of being played on a touchscreen. I found it hard to consistently maneuver my Brother horizontally (pretty critical in a sidescroller) with the D-Pad controls, and I only found a decent scheme in the virtual joystick. This is one game in serious need of tactile controls, although I can’t hold that against it. This isn’t the first game to suffer due to the touchscreen-only control scheme.
The Other Brothers’ attempt to make a modern-day, old-school platformer sounds incredibly intriguing on paper. In this particular execution, though, it’s blasé and undercooked. Whereas Mario survives on its years of polish and charm, The Other Brothers flounders in underdevelopment and a lacking presentation. It’s not an awful game, and picking it up isn’t out of the question, but why choose this platformer when other, far better ones are available?