In its original incarnation, Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer on PlayStation 2 was a solid platform action game helped by colorful art design and a charming tale inspired by Native American folklore. More than two years later, Brave: A Warrior's Tale delivers a super-sized version of that adventure to the Xbox 360, but instead of turning out a bigger and better iteration, Collision Studios has somehow transformed this last-gen holdover into a uniquely miserable platforming experience.
To be fair, you can still see the vestiges of a pretty decent title beneath the myriad developmental mishaps. Brave's mixture of platform jumping and light melee action isn't dramatically different from what we've seen in other kid-friendly releases, but the use of a Native American protagonist gives the game a unique slant and allows for a variety of mystical activities. From transforming into beasts to using magical powers and soaring on an eagle's back, the game certainly can't be knocked for a lack of diverse objectives.
Beyond that, though, it's hard to know where to start when detailing the numerous enjoyment-sullying problems. An awful third-person camera rarely offers even a workable perspective, and paired with flimsy jumping mechanics, dark stages (with no brightness setting), and some amazingly difficult scenarios, it's nearly impossible to get through most situations without dying repeatedly. Hardened platform veterans might persevere with significant frustration, but it's hard to imagine that the younger players this game is designed for will be able to deal with the at-times immense challenge.
Even more distressing are the major bugs that can actually force you to restart the entire campaign. Early on in our adventure, a series of glitches prevented some necessary scripted events from occurring, forcing us to begrudgingly restart the game. Luckily, we lost less than an hour of work, but it wasn't the only bug we witnessed in our quest. Another time, the screen went black and we had to reload our save, while other occasions saw the camera get stuck behind a door, or invisible ivy somehow injuring our young Brave. Blindly forcing the original game's visual aesthetic into a higher resolution also does this port no favors, with terrible texture work and jagged character models and environments making it look more like a rezzed-up N64 game.
Our disgust was solidified near the end of the six-hour campaign, as the PS2 version's final boss fight is astonishingly cut short to insert an hour-plus of new fetch quests. We understand padding the game a bit, but lazily dumping these bland challenges within seconds of what should have been the conclusion shows a total disregard for the players who slogged through hours of sloppy programming to get to that point. And if the developer doesn't care, neither should we.
Aug 25, 2009