Also available on: PS3, PC, Wii, DS, Mac
Developer: Behaviour Interactive
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Genre: Action adventure
Brave isn't the most suitable title for Disney Interactive Studio's latest release, a game that plays it safe on almost every conceivable level. It is, of course, the title of the Pixar movie on which the game is based, and despite Disney Interactive's reluctance to tinker with a tried-and-tested video game format, Brave should provide some short-term thrills for the right kind of audience.
Brave: The Video Game doesn't fully retell the story of the film, instead it gives players a rough idea about what to expect. Without wishing to reveal too much, Brave takes place in medieval Scotland and centres around a quest to remove an ancient curse from a member of highland royalty. Players control the young princess Merida in an adventure involving witches, bears, bows and beasts.
The gameplay, meanwhile, is equally simplistic, something that works both for and against the title. On the one hand, Brave is a twin-stick shooter, granting players access to an elemental bow and arrow, which is fired with the right analogue stick and charged with a trigger button; on the other hand, it's a hack and slash platformer, utilising a basic sword-based combo system with a few power attacks and a dodge ability.
Enemies include wolves, golems, walking trees and mandrakes, all of which are vulnerable to certain types of magic. There are four elemental powers - Earth, Fire, Wind and Ice - which can be switched on the fly, but are disappointingly similar, only really affecting the colour of your aura and arrows. Also, while we appreciate chaotic battles involving numerous elementally varied enemies, the inclusion of symbols revealing a monster's weakness ensures that progression is inevitable.
Despite this, the combat system is at least solid, while the constant promise of coins - which can be used to purchase upgrades - adds an extra level of satisfaction to defeating enemies. In fact, with even more coins hidden away in destructible plants, flowers, trunks and pots, Brave is slightly reminiscent of the LEGO games. The similarities extend to the platforming, whether it's double jumping to reach far away ledges or shooting switches to uncover new platforms.
Unfortunately, it's the platforming that highlights one of Brave's biggest weaknesses. A dodgy camera and occasionally poor lighting results in many an impromptu plunge, though fortunately, instant respawns and an inconsequential death system limits the frustration. Co-op multiplayer, meanwhile, sees a second player control a Will O' The Wisp, though they're hard to keep track of and tend to do more damage to themselves than others. It's a wasted opportunity considering the LEGO comparisons.
Visually, the game continues the middling theme. Landscapes include forests, caves, abandoned castles, swamps and cliffs, all of which exude a certain charm, but will fail to live long in the memory. Environments are predictably colourful, and there are some nice floral effects, but there's far too little detail to take the breath away. This is a game clearly designed for a multiformat release, with the inclusion of some archery-based Kinect games the only clue that you're playing it on the Xbox 360.
Brave is an enjoyable enough video game in the right hands and with the correct level of expectation. It will only take around five or six hours to complete, although increased difficulty levels and collectibles provide some incentive to replay. Though not without its charms, the mediocre gameplay and unambitious level design makes Brave feel more like a downloadable release than a fully-fledged retail title.
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