A cruelly hijacked story makes this otherwise serviceable game a pale shadow of adventures past.
- Good variety of gameplay.
- Ruins its own story arc
- Homely character models
- Finicky platforming
- Incongruous difficulty spikes.
Brave: A Warrior's Tale is an expanded version of Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer, which came out for the PlayStation 2 in 2007. Though the original was already behind the times, it still proved to be passably entertaining. Brave: A Warrior's Tale takes this aging adventure and crowbars in new content; the result is not pretty. The platforming elements--running, jumping, riding animals--are mostly competent and might provide some fun. That is, until the story is abruptly derailed in the middle of what should be the climactic finale. This callous detour breaks the momentum of hours of adventuring and spoils the story arc, robbing your previous accomplishments of significance and leaving you to plod on unhappily to the finish. Brave's mild adventurous appeal is overshadowed by its shortcomings, and even the bargain price isn't enough incentive to indulge in this tired tale.
At the outset of this adventure, you choose to play as a male or female character and then head off to your village to meet up with Brave, your elderly chief. He proceeds to tell you the story of when he was a young lad and had to vanquish a mighty evil that threatened his village. This story is the adventure that you play for the majority of the game, and you play it as Brave. You start by learning the basics and slowly move on to acquire new skills. There are a few neat activities that reflect the Native American vibe, such as spear fishing and animal mimicry, and though you only perform these actions a handful of times, they offer some nice variety. Most of your time is spent running, jumping, and thwacking enemies with your tomahawk. For the most part, enemies aren't very tough, and vanquishing them is just a matter of running straight at them and mashing the attack button. There are some more formidable foes, but you can easily pick them off with your bow or use spirit energy to temporarily power up and go to town with your axe. Combat is rarely challenging, which makes it well-suited for younger players, but it's not particularly entertaining.
As you make your way through the story, you'll traverse a variety of colorful landscapes. Though the cartoony visuals are decidedly dated, they have a clumsy charm to them (though the same can't be said for the awkward character models). You'll spend a lot of time platforming your way through these landscapes, and for the most part you can maneuver with ease through the generally spacious environments. When you have to execute more precise jumps, things can get tricky. Part of the challenge comes from the timing required to land on moving platforms or the small size of your target area. It can take a few tries to judge your jump correctly. The other part of the challenge comes from some design issues. Environmental textures often make it unclear which part of a platform you can safely land on and which part will send you sliding off the edge. The jumping mechanics don't make it easy to land precisely, and moving the uncooperative camera into a good position seems to be most problematic when you are keenly in need of a better view. Fortunately, you have infinite lives and checkpoints are pretty frequent, so the worst consequence of repeatedly failing a tough section is frustration.
Though running and jumping take up most of your time, there are a number of sections that feature different kinds of action. In a few levels, you'll fly on an eagle's back, steering the bird and slowing down or speeding up as necessary. You can pick things up with the eagle's talons, and you'll use this skill to solve puzzles and, more amusingly, grab enemies to drop them to their deaths. There are also sections where you become an animal, so you'll flush out a hidden enemy as a skunk or tear through hordes of evil skeletons as a giant bear. These sections spice up the action and help keep the adventure moving along at a good clip, though there are a few diversions that aren't as enjoyable. Steering your canoe down a river is clumsy, and smashing it on the rocks will make you realize that checkpoints aren't as generously distributed in these sections. There are also a number of occasions when you'll be imbued with the ability to cast a spell that damages enemies within a certain radius. Again, the variety is nice, but having to get close to powerful enemies that can quickly destroy you is not so nice. You need to get pretty close to some giant elemental demons to hit them with your spell, and even the quickest darting maneuvers won't necessarily keep you from harm. Some of these sections are incongruously difficult, and it messes with the otherwise agreeable pace of the adventure.
For the most part, the story moves along at a good clip, and after a good amount of adventuring, you'll face off with the mighty evil in what should be the climactic final fight. You damage the monster, it ratchets up the attack, and things heat up when loading screen. Wait, what? Halfway through this battle, there is a loading screen? Oddly enough, yes. The half-dead monster is left behind, and now, you are back in the village where Brave, again the storytelling chief, has decided he needs you to fetch three items for him before he finishes the story. Fetch three items?! But, I already did fetch quests! I lived that part of the adventure, and now, it's time for the climax! So much for building up to the finale. And what happens after you fetch those items? Fetch four more items. Oh, and you get to jump into an ugly environment and navigate some of the toughest, most finicky jumping puzzles while you're at it. This abrupt derailment is disorienting, and it totally ruins the arc of Brave's story. It's like an epilogue was jammed in before the conclusion; it doesn't make sense and leaves you feeling bewildered and betrayed.
The additional fetch quests may provide a couple more hours of gameplay, but they highlight the aforementioned platforming issues and have none of the colorful charm of the earlier levels. Any enjoyment you may have garnered from playing through the story is soured because the satisfaction of completing the adventure is jerked away from you. Though it offers adequate adventure action, Brave: A Warrior's Tale shoots itself in the foot at the eleventh hour, and you should stay away to avoid becoming collateral damage.
- Downloadable Game