Review: Brave on Xbox 360
PIXAR has built up an enviable reputation for delivering clever and engaging computer animated films.
Publisher: Disney Interactive
Format: Xbox 360 (also on PS3, Wii, DS)
Age rating: 12+
PIXAR has built up an enviable reputation for delivering clever and engaging computer animated films. Surprisingly, it’s also no slouch when it comes to producing videogames, either, with its adaptations of Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 receiving rave reviews, including ones from this very column. Its new movie, Brave, is due out mid-August, and has already had the thumbs up from movie critics, so we were eager to discover whether the animation studio could make it a hat-trick of hits in the gaming arena too.
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Players take on the guise of Merida, a feisty teenage princess, who’s more adept at handling a bow and arrow than a pair of hair straighteners. When a witch gives her a potion that turns her mum into a bear, the flame-haired heroine sets off on a quest to put things right.
Set in a cartoon world modelled on medieval Scotland, the third-person action adventure is spread across eight levels, none of which take more than an hour to complete. While it’s undoubtedly a short game, it’s also a good one, as you guide your plucky adventurer along linear pathways, battling an assortment of mythical beasts, solving puzzles and jumping about like a loon.
You’re armed with a sword for close-quarter combat and a bow and arrow for ranged attacks, both of which can be enhanced with elemental powers. Most enemies have an elemental weakness – conveniently displayed above their heads – so if you pick the right one you’ll undoubtedly make short work of them.
A local co-op mode lets a second player join the fray in a supporting role, which is ideal for children who want to play along with mum or dad. You’ve also got combat arenas, where you play as Merida’s mother in bear form – pounding all-comers into the ground with a swipe of your claws – and three archery mini-games aimed exclusively at Kinect and PS Move owners.
It all looks lovely, but a wayward camera zooms too far out from the action at times. Kelly Macdonald returns as the voice of Merida, which is a nice touch, and a soaring orchestral score underpins the action. Ignoring some odd frame-rate hiccups, there’s a lot to admire about this polished movie tie-in, although it’s obviously aimed at a family audience rather than hardcore gamers.