How the other half lives
I typically don’t monitor updates for games that put me off in the first place, but The Other Brothers benefits from the immediacy of its update and the potential I saw when originally playing the game for review. The new update to The Other Brothers affixes the Digital Pad to a single point on the screen, addressing my (and many others’) primary concern with the game. While climbing still feels a bit awkward, and I still miss a jump here and there, the new control scheme is certainly a benefit to The Other Brothers. Read my original review below for the reasoning behind the game’s initial score of 2.5 stars- this seemingly minor tweak to the controls warrants an extra “star” in my mind.
There have been some excellent 2D platformers released on the iPhone and iPad, Soosiz and SolaRola often come to mind as the best representations of their genre on Apple’s platform. For every Soosiz, though, there are tens of poorly implemented flops. The Other Brothers, a play on the Mario Brothers franchise, is a newly released platformer that hopes to win players over with visual flair and some intense platforming action.
Most gamers will immediately recognize the lead characters of The Other Brothers (TOB). This is because TOB is an alternate telling of the classic Mario Brothers tale. A damsel in distress, mustachioed men in caps and overalls, and the villainous mafia. The whole game is rendered in a pleasant “retro” style as is quite popular in indie titles these days. I will say that while the game’s intentional retro look is largely executed well, at some points sprites look “jaggy” instead of “retro.” It is a fine line to walk, and I would look to Bit Trip Runner 2 as a better example of how to render old looking gameplay sequences. Taken as a whole, the world of The Other Brothers is gritty, beautiful, and highly reminiscent of platformers of old.
TOB does its best to create this parallel universe by integrating not only the themes of Mario, but the gameplay as well. As one would guess, the player hops through the environment, leaps over gaps, climbs ladders, collects things, and dispatches enemies by leaping onto their heads. I was quite excited to get started with The Other Brothers, but the controls quickly dampened my eagerness to play. The digital control pad shifts as the player re-positions their thumb. This causes moments where the player attempts to control their character but nothing happens, or something unexpected happens. The floating D-pad allows the player to move the character via swipe motions, but it is bad for precise taps. Anchoring the D-pad to a single place on the screen is the common solution in games like this. The precision required by Mario type games cannot be met with a floating D-pad.
An anchored D-pad will at least partially allow the player to remember where to position their fingers – something that physical D-pads are much better at doing. If the player spends enough time with TOB on iOS, they can become accustomed to the controls. Metroid Prime Hunters taught me that there is a gulf between bearable controls and good controls, and The Other Brothers’ controls lean more towards bearable.
I can honestly say that the tone of this review would be drastically different had this game been released on the Vita or 3DS. The need to design games for the platforms they are released on cannot be overemphasized. Even if the controls were to be perfect, The Other Brothers is held back by its ties to Mario. The gameplay and imagery can’t ever feel truly unique, but I suppose that is the nature of parodies. At $1.99, The Other Brothers will be worth a gander if they implement a fix to the control scheme. Until then, I would direct you to hunt for your platforming princess in another castle.
The Other Brothers is available for $1.99 as a Universal Download