A Movie-Based Game
As with most big movie releases for kids, the new Disney Pixar movie "Brave" gets its own video game called Brave: The Video Game. While the movie presents a moving Scottish tale about the emotional struggle between a fierce, determined princess and her traditional, regal mother, the game squanders the opportunity to create a terrific video game with a strong female lead. Instead, the game plays like a typical combat adventure game created for young boys, where the lead character just happens to be wearing a dress.
In the movie, Merida is a teenage girl whose father taught her how to shoot arrows at a target and wield a sword. Her mother countered this weapons-teaching with lessons about court decorum and running a household. More in tune with the lessons from her father than those from her mother, Merida is frequently at odds with the Queen. When her mother tries to push her into marriage to one of the other clans' first born sons, Merida balks. Escaping to the forest on her loyal steed, Merida follows a Will O' The Wisp to a witch's cottage. She makes a rash decision to have the witch create a magic cake that, when eaten, will change her mom. The disastrous result of this wish is that her mother is turned into a bear. Merida spends the movie trying to undo her wish and right the wrong she did to her mother. The movie explores the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, and what it means to take responsibility for your actions.
How to Play
Brave: The Video Game is an action adventure game divided into eight levels. You play as Merida, accessing the levels from within the standing stones that were a part of the movie. In each level, you explore an environment by whacking flowers and fauna, as well as other things in the environment that have become plighted by an evil that is spreading through the land. This destruction earns you coins which appear on the ground for you to collect. You must also fight a wide range of spirit creatures that frequently appear to stop you. These creatures look like wispy wolves, giant stone golems, walking trees, ice giants, and other magical creatures; and their destruction also earns you coins and healing potions. The coins can be used to upgrade your weapons and attacks, since you will continuously be challenged by bigger and stronger foes to fight. You can also use the coins for buying new outfits.
In addition to the combat, the game features a fair amount of platform-puzzling. There are zip wires to find, special platforms that send you flying, and even sides of cliffs to wall-jump. Periodically, you will encounter puzzles in which you control Merida's three little brothers (who have been turned into bear cubs by the witch's cake). By switching among the triplets, you position them to step on buttons that trigger the popping out of platforms or the opening of doors so that they can navigate to a switch to open something you need.
As an action adventure game not connected to the "Brave" movie, this game isn't bad. It features lush, breath-taking environments similar to what is seen in the movie. It lets you select the difficulty of the combat you will encounter, with the easy level not requiring much skill. You can play with a friend who becomes a helpful Will O' The Wisp. And it introduces special collectible charms that help you with the combat and during exploration. Enemies show their weakness to a specific charm above their head. By scrolling through your collected charms to arm your bow with the correct charm, you will be much more effective when shooting that particular enemy. Likewise, when using the bow to alter your environment, if you match charms to a target with a glowing signal representing a specific charm, the result will be a special platform or other pathway appearing.
However, as a movie game based on "Brave," this game is a disappointment. Brave: The Video Game isn't a game that celebrates the wonderfully strong and complex character of Merida. The Merida presented in this game is simply a warrior. She spends most of her time in combat or destroying her environment. While the Merida from the movie is shown using a bow to shoot targets and has a sword, her combat skills are a small part of the movie. With her love of the outdoors, having her constantly destroying beautiful flowers and fauna within the game seems out of character. Plus all of the combat within the game, pushes its age appropriateness up to age 10, while the movie's targeted audience is much younger.
The Bottom Line
Brave: The Video Game is a combat adventure with some platform jumping and a wee bit of puzzling. It feels like an action adventure game targeted for boys, instead of a game for girls that lets them explore being a brave princess.
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