I’m a big fan of Pixar films and I’m also a big fan of video games however I’ve found the two don’t always go hand in hand. I found Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 to be really good, solid games, but found others like Up, Wall-E and Ratatouille to be very average. The latest Pixar film released this summer is a fresh newcomer called Brave and has had a good reception from fans and critics alike, but does this tie-in game have the same quality as the film or is this just another cheap cash in title that even the most brave gamer should avoid?
As of writing this review the movie hasn’t yet been released in UK cinemas so I haven’t actually seen it yet, but apparently the game is set just after the events of the film. This in mind I highly suggest that those who don’t want the film’s story spoilt for them should avoid playing this game until they have seen it. The game’s protagonist is a Scottish princess with big, curly, fiery red hair who goes by the name of Merida and her main weapon of choice is her trusty bow.
The gameplay borrows heavily from the Lego games with its camera system, simplistic controls, local co-op and excessive collectables, however it has failed to borrow any of the charm from the Lego titles. The film does have a colourful cast of characters and beautiful mythical Scottish Highlands setting, however none of that ever seems to shine through in the game’s character and level design. Much like the Lego games, you can walk around destroying everything in sight which in return spits out masses of coins but it just doesn’t feel nearly as fun as collecting studs in the Lego games. Getting the collectables plays a big part in the game and the coins you collect can be used to upgrade your bow and sword.
The game’s combat works very well with its twin stick shooter style combat, which is achieved by aiming the right analogue stick in the direction you want to face and the arrow automatically firing. Since archery is big key theme in the film, it makes perfect sense for the bow to be the character’s weapon in the game and actually turns out to be one of the more enjoyable aspects of gameplay. You get a few different ammo types to choose from which all have different effects depending on the enemy. Also if you happen to grow tired of the bow then Merida also wields a sword for your hack and slashing pleasure. Combat is definitely above average compared to a lot of games based on films and I found myself enjoying it a lot.
Brave has several difficulty settings but even the hardest shouldn’t provide much a challenge for most people, with the only difficult moments coming from trying to judge some of the game’s more frustrating jumps. This is never much of a problem though considering (just like the Lego games), the game never punishes you much for falling. In all fairness the game seems to be aimed at children though, so it’s no surprise that things come across very easy. Since it didn’t make even the hardest difficulty a challenge, it seems like a missed opportunity for more advanced players.
The game also contains some mini games and puzzles to help break things up and gives you an opportunity to play as other characters from the film. For those that own a Kinect or Playstation Move, there are mini games available that use these features. The mini games aren’t amazing, but they do give you a chance to dust off your Kinect/Move controllers and provide a few minutes of fun.
The graphics aren’t too great. They do the job and at times and can look quite nice, unfortunately a lot of my playthrough I couldn’t help but think to myself that things were bordering on that of a game from last generation. I know graphics aren’t the most important thing for a game, but when you see how beautiful the film looks, it’s disappointing to see that the game fails to capture the same polish. It doesn’t ruin the game experience though and for most people it’s certainly not going to distract from the gameplay. The fact that the game’s camera uses an isometric view point means that you never get a real close look at the characters or environment so its graphical flaws are never too obvious.
The voice acting in the game is really good which is down to the fact that Kelly Macdonald who plays Merida in the film also a reprises her role. This really goes a long way to retaining the authenticity of the film and is much better than when games use ‘sound alike’ voice actors. The acting isn’t phoned in either and really makes the cut scenes more enjoyable, it’s just a shame that the game doesn’t include more of them. The music in the game is pretty good too and wouldn’t surprise me if it’s taken from the film itself. The music helps keep things exciting and almost makes you forget how tiresome some of the levels can get.
Overall I did find myself enjoying this game a lot more than I thought I would. I’ve played a lot of absolutely terrible games based on films in my time and it’s obvious that Brave stands above them. It’s not a classic game and it certainly won’t win any awards, but it does exactly what it sets out to do which is to provide a playable and fun experience for children and fans of the film to enjoy.
Brave the video game is out now for Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and Windows PC/Mac.