For all its rich history and action-packed stories, Native American legend is one of the few branches of folklore that video games have left largely unexplored. The problem might be that it's a little too rich, if Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer is anything to go by. A messy hodgepodge of tribal mythology and symbols from all over the US, Brave has about as much in common with pre-Columbian America as The Lord of the Rings does with medieval Europe - which, for anyone who demands realistic depictions of Native Americans, might raise some hackles.
But enough sermonizing. Brave never pretends to be an educational tool, and once you get past the potential awkwardness of a warpaint-wearing, tomahawk-swinging boy hero (named Brave) who hunts for totem poles and dreamcatchers, it's shaping up to be a surprisingly enjoyable game.
Brave started out feeling like an average platform-hopper with a weird art style, as big-headed Brave explored a large, foresty environment and did the bidding of his friend Meadow Flower and his mentor, Gray Bear. This mostly involved running around with a stick, cracking open vegetation and giant bees to get at the goodies inside. Soon, we were able to light the stick on fire, which made it a little more powerful and allowed us to light torches and smash marauding crows into reddish chunks.
As we continued, though, Brave got a little deeper. Carvings earned from defeating certain enemies gave us new skills, and we were soon able to mimicdifferent animals. We quickly used this to trick an eagle into flying over to us, which let us grab a feather to tuck into Brave's headband. We also gained the ability to dive underwater and to track creatures through the wilderness - using the controller's vibrations to pick up their trail - which helped us find our way to the game's first boss: a giant grizzly bear.