Far from your average summer blockbuster adaptation, Brave is a bit of an oddity. It is, as you might expect, a 3D platformer, but one that’s very combat heavy, that’s played from a similar point-of-view to Diablo, and that sometimes feels like a collision between the 2010 Tomb Raider spin-off, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, an action RPG and a pre-teen God of War. The surprise is that it’s a lot more effective and enjoyable than that might sound, and nearly a brilliant, family-friendly game. We’ll come to the "nearly" bit in a minute.
We’d suggest going to see the movie first, as Brave: The Video Game dishes out several spoilers within the first few minutes. In the vaguest terms, it’s the story of a feisty young princess in a fantasy highlands realm, on a mission to cleanse the land of an evil taint created by the accursed supernatural bear, Mordu. This entails making your way through eight different levels, battling ents, golems, fire-trailing boars and vicious crows, while leaping across chasms and hopping from rock to rock or ledge to ledge.
Courage in Combat
Combat involves just two weapons, a trusty sword and Princess Merida’s beloved bow, but to keep things interesting Brave borrows a few tricks from other games. Firstly, within the first clutch of levels you’ll collect four elemental charms which enchant your bow and blade. You can flick between these with a tap of the bumper buttons, and specific monsters are more affected by specific charms. For instance, those grumpy tree-creatures soon go down if hit by fire, while stone golems are vulnerable to the destructive power of wind (in the weather sense, though we often feel the same after a large curry). What’s more, these elemental charms also affect certain parts of the environment, creating platforms from leaves or freezing chunks of ice into platforms.
On top of this, the game has a slick upgrade system. Not only can you find more powerful bows and swords as you make progress, but you can also pick up loot from battered monsters and bashed scenery, then splash out on new attacks and capabilities at the waystones you unlock along the way. These start with simple ground pound attacks, but before long you’ll have a meter you can fill in combat to trigger a time-limited high damage mode, plus special elemental attacks you can unleash by holding fire to charge your bow.
Battling the Baddies
In practice, the mix of fighting and platforming works pretty well. The odd camera angle has its downsides in that it can make it tricky to judge distance and direction, but if you miss the odd platform it’s not a disaster – the game starts you off on the last one with just a little health lost. Nor does Brave stop short of throwing you into some pretty massive scraps. At first these can be overwhelming, but then you discover that a) matching charms to enemies is absolutely crucial, b) using special attacks and the power gauge is the way forward and c) that you can use the right stick to fire arrows, turning Brave into – effectively – a twin-stick shooter. We’re not 100 per cent sure that the in-game tutorials mention that last bit, so it’s worth taking note.