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Video Game Review: ‘Brave: The Video Game’ Works Only For Most Loyal Fans of Pixar Hit

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CHICAGO – The genre of video games based on feature films is a notoriously weak one in terms of creativity. There’s often the sense that these are mere marketing tie-ins with no passion or spark behind their development. Like their theatrical counterparts, Pixar video games are often an exception. “Up” had some inspired energy (especially on the Nintendo Wii) and “Toy Story 3” is arguably the best video game based on a kid’s movie. So there’s reason to hope when you open your copy of “Brave: The Video Game,” now available for the PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and PC. Sadly, that hope dissipates due to uninspired gameplay, mediocre visuals, and thin storytelling. It’s not a total mess but the film’s fans deserved better.

HollywoodChicago.com Video Game Rating: 2.0/5.0
Video Game Rating: 2.0/5.0

Like many video games based on films, the action of the adventure only uses the plot of the movie as a starting point, building its own narrative upon it. Of course, players control Princess Merida (voiced so wonderfully by Kelly MacDonald in the film) and the narrative arc of the game plot includes her mother turning into a bear (along with cameos by her bear brothers) but it also spins its own tale, focusing on the nature setting of the film and incorporating Merida’s ability to harness the powers of Earth, Fire, Wind, and Ice. Merida switches between gems that harness these elements into her sword and bow, making her a more deadly foe.

Brave: The Video Game
Brave: The Video Game
Photo credit: Disney Interactive Studios

Yes, in perhaps the greatest flaw of “Brave: The Video Game,” a film that wonderfully teaches little girls that bravery is more than just might has been reduced to a basic combat title. In “Brave,” you progress through several levels, unlocking new gems and new strengths with which to defeat new enemies. With a few exceptions (there are puzzles to be solved with the brothers and a few occasions in which you get to control Elinor as a bear), “Brave” is action heavy. You could play most of the title with your finger down on the shoot button as you alternate the gems best suited to defeat each new enemy.

Brave: The Video Game
Brave: The Video Game
Photo credit: Disney Interactive Studios

It all gets rather repetitive and shockingly dull. There just aren’t enough surprises in “Brave.” It’s the classic problem of the kid’s game — keeping it simple enough for little ones to play it while also not insulting their intelligence or failing to appeal to older players. Most kids will get bored with “Brave” before the final chapter.

It doesn’t help that the game looks nearly last-generation at times. Enemy design is lackluster and the backgrounds are boring and repetitive. Some of the character design, particularly Merida, is impressive, but there’s not enough visual variety to distinguish the game either.

For whom did they make “Brave: The Video Game”? Perhaps it’s being cynical to criticize a game based on a family film but the fact is that I wish developers would take more creative risks in their movie tie-ins. Take the concept and build on it in a way that feels true and artistically compatible with the source. Hardcore fans of “Brave” will enjoy the chance to wield Merida’s bow and probably never know that this title could have been much more. For them, it’s just a bridge to the next video game or perhaps an introduction to the art of gaming. If “Brave: The Video Game” gets more little girls to play their older brother’s favorite machine, it will have done some definite good. I just wish it was a game that could appeal to everyone and break the trend of movie tie-in games instead of proving the genre’s lack of creative depth yet again.

“Brave: The Video Game” was released for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii, and PC on June 19, 2012. The game is rated E 10+ (Everyone 10 and Older).



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HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

By BRIAN TALLERICO
Content Director
HollywoodChicago.com
brian@hollywoodchicago.com

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