"Master of All Four Elements"
I lament the fact that Brave: The Video Game is going to get overlooked by the general gaming public by virtue of it being a licensed game. Its release coming at the tail end of this generation's consoles' life cycles also does not help its visibility. It is generally accepted that such games, especially ones aimed at a younger audience, do not favor well critically. Many will see it as a cash-in to tie into what is yet another quality Pixar film. Luckily, the game version is capable of matching the film version's quality.
It is kind of disappointing that so many modern games relegate female main characters to either weak stereotypes (eg. damsels-in-distress) or turn them into objectified sex symbols, pandering to the presumably dominant male gaming audience. The star of the film and, obviously, this game, is Merida, a strong-willed, brash princess whose skillful archer character bucks the trend by embodying anything but the traditionally romanticized Disney princess role.
The game begins with Merida chasing her mother, who has turned into a bear. Granted, it is a curse that Merida was guilty of invoking (she only wished for her mother to be different, so that she herself might be able to escape her predetermined lifestyle), but at least she is mature enough to take responsibility for the misdeed and sets out on a journey to right her wrong. You are tasked with cleansing the world of the curse's spreading darkness, which is represented by a deep purple fog, offering a visual representation of your progress.
Brave: The Video Game is a third-person shooter and hack 'n' slash adventure, and Merida is well-equipped for her journey with a sword and bow. In the Wii versión, the motion controls are minimal: a simple flick of the wrist executes quick sword slashing. A button press does the same on the HD versions. The ability to quickly switch from Merida's bow-and-arrow (for taking down distant enemies that approach from all directions) to her sword (for fighting off those enemies who sneak past your arrow onslaught and get too close) ensures that the action is fresh and fluid.
You will also have elemental-based attacks (earth, fire, wind, and ice) that do extra damage to specific enemies or can alter the terrain in particular ways (raising platforms, mostly). It adds a small but welcome strategic aspect to the combat. Needing to switch elements on the fly is easy, and choosing the right one for different enemies on the field makes for some intense situations.
It is strange that the bow-and-arrow mechanic of Brave: The Video Game is limited to the directional pad on the Wii. While it allows for shooting around in disparate directions quickly, it would have possibly better been served to use the reliable and accurate IR pointer for targeting. The high-definition console versions utilize the controls of the enjoyable, if underused, twin-stick shooter genre (with the right stick firing endless arrows in your chosen direction, while the left stick handles strafing), so it is understandable that the developers wanted symmetry between the multiple versions.
A couple of sections of Brave: The Video Game even have you playing as Queen Elinore in her bear form. As expected, you use her brute strength and lumbering speed to attack waves of foes. While Merida's and Queen Elinore's gameplay are focused on combat, short sections involving her triplet brothers (who were also turned into bears) focus on simple character-swapping, tile-stepping, and level-pulling puzzles to help Merida through closed-off paths.
Cooperative play comes in the form of a second player managing an upgradable "wisp" with a second controller. With it, you cut down everything you can. For whatever reason, gold is strewn about the land, and you will need a lot of it to dedicate to the various upgrades available at the deliberately placed merchants. Such upgrades include charged shots, quicker charging of said shots, stronger health potion effects, and a longer duration for temporary power increases.
In terms of presentation, Brave is quite pretty in all versions. The game is split up into distinct levels like forest, coast, and an ice-based level. You gain access to a central hub early on called "The Ring of Stones", but entry to each particular area is cornered off until the previous one is completed. Colorful backdrops and particle effects make for some nice depth. Story scenes are presented like a children's storybook, with a paper filter overlaying the scenes and, rather than being fully animated, these scenes are composed of still images overlaying one another, like pages being turned.
Do not let this game's licensed-based origin and the fact that it is aimed at a younger audience, deter you. Brave: The Video Game is a surprisingly deep action adventure worth playing regardless of your age.
GameDynamo's Score for Brave: The Video Game (PC)
Writes for a few media outlets, does graphic design work for a few clients, as well as production work for a few studios (all poorly). Believes the best correlation between the words "twilight" and "sparkle" has less to do with vampires and more to do with a sarcastic pony.
[View Brave: The Video Game images / screenshots +]
[Watch Brave: The Video Game videos / trailers +]
[View more Brave: The Video Game articles (news, previews, reviews) +]
[View Brave: The Video Game cheats / guides +]
More from GameDynamo