All the way from the Soviet Union, here is the Pilot Brothers.
The Pilot Brothers, or originally Kolobki Brothers, originated in the Soviet Union in the mid 80s. They were the cartoon heroes always getting into trouble while solving crimes. Later on they even got to host a show as virtual hosts. As obscure as it might seem they are now on my iPhone about twenty-five years later. This time it is a port of a game that was released in 1997 in Russia. The ideals of the Soviet Union might have died with the Berlin Wall, and manifestations in the early 90s, but a cartoon managed to survive. Perhaps due to not being political, ideological or even voiced. The Pilot Brothers are universal, and could have been spawned in any European country.
Pilot Brothers is a weird point and click puzzle adventure. Weird in the sense that there is no focus on dialogues or written clues whatsoever. Compared to other popular games of the era, and genre such as Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion this is truly peculiar. Not even the interface bears any connection to any language, as everything is based on images and icons.
There is a lot of language going on in the game nevertheless, but that is body language from the Pilot Brothers, characters and animals. This is fairly universal, and as it is quite exaggerated it becomes both funny, and quite easy to follow. Other than that the brothers grunt, chirp and chatter about without actually making any intelligent conversation.
I didn’t really get the plot when I first started the game, but soon I managed to figure out it had about a large mammal to do. The game can be played, and even completed without ever knowing what the plot is. That is because the entire game is played through a series of scenes where you usually have to either progress to the next by getting past an obstacle, or find a key and just walk on. In some small way it reminds me of Windosil in that regards, but that is all the similarity there is.
The controls are at times infuriatingly awkward, and that is due to the Pilot Brothers themselves. Whenever I want them to do something I make sure to select an active brother by either tapping on him, or his picture found to the right. Then I select an action from the icons found below. I can use an object in the inventory, or go for an action using the brother. After that I tap the location I want to interact with. It might sound simple, and it is. The problem is that whenever I tap an action, or object that the brothers aren’t able to interact with they get different animations. Shaking their heads, drinking water or ramble hysterically might been fun the first time. After an hour, or two I am ready to throw my iPhone into a wall. Furthermore the puzzles are most often about testing every possible action with both brothers, and thus there are a lot of these soon tedious animations.
Solving a puzzle is never straightforward, and on the strangeness level it certainly beats both Secret of Monkey Island, and Simon the Sorcerer. It is actually up there with Edna & Harvey in the absolute top tier of strange point and click puzzles. In Edna & Harvey I did however get a sense of progression, and cohesiveness to the plot. In Pilot Brothers however I get a sense of frustration interspersed with joy when I finally manage to beat a scene.
Pilot Brothers is not a long game, and can be beaten in a couple of hours if you manage to get into the logic, or non-logic of the puzzles. It is one of those games that I don’t want to ever replay. Not because it is hard, or lacking humour but rather because of the constant repetition of the same animations and sounds. When I started playing I was quite ecstatic over the freshness of the game, but that soon dwindled.
The presentation in Pilot Brothers is quite neat, as it uses detailed hand drawn backgrounds and characters. Much like the artwork featuring a lot of fun situations found at the dentists office there is a lot going on in the game. The animations are fun, but as I stated earlier there is too much repetition. The music is ok, and reminds me of my childhood when Swedish Television aired a lot of Eastern European programmes for kids. Again the voices of the brothers are neat, but annoying. The odd intelligible line in English can be heard too often.
The Pilot Brothers is perhaps more of a cool historical artefact than a great game. Born in the Soviet Union they have come a long way to be found on an iOS device. The odd puzzles, repetitive nature of the brothers’ gestures and lack of plot hurt the game. Still it might be worth getting if you want a new point and click puzzle experience that might ultimately mess you up.