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A Stylish Puzzle Platformer - Soul Brother Review
Oftentimes, when an indie game isn't offering a unique new concept, it's harking back to an older era in gaming--an era that wasn't afraid to kick your butt. This era didn't hold gamers' hands, and it let them grow up as they played through challenging cartridge-based quests. Soul Brother is a lot like these games of old: it's challenging, rewarding, and totally mesmerizing. That said, the game also has some interesting elements that make it feel very modern, and at times even a bit Japanese. Developer Jasper Byrne has put together a compelling mix of tough puzzle platforming gameplay, stylish visuals, and catchy music to provide a rewarding game that could easily be marketed and sold for cash. Instead, this generous individual is allowing you to play this magnificent game for free. Be grateful.
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Soul Brother Gameplay
You play as the soul of a dead individual who has the ability to possess bodies as he goes on a quest for wisdom. The game never gets into much detail as far as narrative is concerned, but that isn't really necessary, because Soul Brother's strongest aspect is its wonderful gameplay. Throughout your adventure, you encounter numerous characters that range from cats to birds to, well, all manner of strange block-shaped critters. Each of these characters has its own abilities such as douoble-jumping or block-pushing, and it is up to you to utilize their abilities to overcome each room's obstacles.
You can't just hop from body to body, though. In order to successfully possess another character, you need to kill yourself first. It's an interesting mechanic, and one that plays with mortality interestingly yet fittingly given the game's subject matter. You can commit suicide in different ways such as jumping into spikes, letting projectiles hit you, or touching something that you know is deadly and would otherwise avoid.
As you progress through the levels, killing yourself repeatedly and inhabiting the bodies of others, you must solve satisfying puzzles. The rooms in the game are simple enough early on, but as you get closer to the end of the game, everything gets a lot more challenging. Platforming sections are tighter and require precise jumps. More hazards are cramped into smaller spaces. Spikes fall from the ceiling. Death is everywhere, and while you need to use it to your advantage to clear rooms, you need to be able to avoid it if you want to proceed in certain situations. This makes the game increasingly challenging, and it is especially tough when you're trying to obtain hard-to-reach collectible items.
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Soul Brother's control scheme is simple and to the point. Using the left and right arrow keys on your computer keyboard, you must guide characters accross rooms and through obstacles. Hitting down while in front of a sign allows you to read a tidbit of information, usually a hint or mini-tutorial. And pressing the X key makes your character jump.
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Visually, Soul Brother is absolutely stunning. The game has a distinct art style that will bring back good memories to NES-loving retro fans, all the while having its own modernizations. Everything has a slightly washed out look that really makes the game stand out among other indie games that use bold colors and vibrant hues. The game is really easy on the eyes, and there's charm literally everywhere. Backgrounds are interesting, characters are charming, and landmarks such as giant sunflowers look extremely artful. These details coupled with the game's washed out look combine to successfully provide you with a visually pleasing world to explore.
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In stark contrast to the old school graphics, Soul Brother's soundtrack features a number of themes that sound fairly modern. That said, they certainly don't sound like anything you'd hear in a mainstream game. As you progress through your journey for wisdom, you hear catchy themes that range from upbeat and uplifiting to atmospheric and serene. The sound design is most certainly pleasing to the ears, and the interesting music you hear along the way provides a nice offbeat treat that, despite not being old school, fits nicely with the game's retro visuals from an artistic standpoint. Possibly the only problem with the game's soundtrack is that there aren't more awesome themes to accompany what's already there.
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Soul Brother is an impressive 2D journey from start to finish. It's a bit of a shame that it only takes about 30 minutes to get through the first time, but there are plenty of hidden trinkets for you to seek out and collect. And depending on how well you do as you play, you will be treated to several different rewards at the end of the game. Soul Brother is an excellent game that isn't afraid to challenge you. At the same time, you never find yourself constantly restarting a stage like you might in Super Meat Boy or VVVVVV. Soul Brother is old school in all the right ways, and it offers enough modern personality to successfully create a journey that you'll want to return to again and again.