Review: Brave The Video Game (NDS)

Platform: Nintendo DS/DSi

Developer: Behaviour Interactive, Inc.

Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios

# of Players: 1

ESRB Rating: E 10+ (Everyone 10+)

Official Site

Score: B- (75%)

While not perfect, with Brave: The Video Game for the Nintendo DS, Behaviour Interactive has managed to bring the familiar fun of plenty of great action platform games from the past. While the portable version is skewed a bit more to younger gamers than the console ones are (don’t let that E 10+ rating fool you), there’s a decent amount of fun to be had with all the sword swinging, bow shooting, platforming and super to mildly simple puzzle solving.  If you’re able to get over the otherwise fine PSOne-era visuals, occasional AI silliness and some jumping issues a better camera angle would have helped fix, you’ll find this to be a nice (albeit brief) diversion if you’ve got a few hours to kill.

The game follows the same storyline as the console versions, and uses the same storybook cut scenes, but the gameplay and levels are all completely different. Where Brave on home consoles and PC has nine levels total, the DS version packs in 25 stages spread across a nicely sized overworld map. The stages are, however, fairly brief and range in challenge from play with your eyes closed simple to a few where a pack of enemies or some bad jumps and environmental hazards can whittle poor Meridia’s life bar down to nothing within seconds if you’re not paying attention.  Here, you won’t need to worry about playing as Elinor or the triplet bear cubs, as the game is even more streamlined to the basics. Kill elemental creatures, jump across platforms, solve puzzles, grab gear, move on. Rinse & repeat as necessary until climactic boss battle.

This works well thanks to solid combat controls and the manner in which the game doles out the elemental powers Meridia uses. Each one has to be found somewhere in a different level and acquiring each requires taking down a bunch of enemies in a small space. At the beginning, you have a standard sword and bow and most of the enemies you’ll have coming at you can be taken out with a few swings or shots. But as you step into that first elemental power room, you’ll come across a big brute that takes time to put down with a pack of smaller, but still dangerous nasties to fight. The battle is a bit spastic because of the cramped quarters and the fact that you’ll probably be rolling and shooting and swinging, hoping Meridia’s health holds out and an enemy drops a potion if you take a hit or two. Then you may see that the giant blocky thing that was chasing you around the map has stuck himself in a corner or against a wall and isn’t moving at all, making him an easy target to finish off. Oops.

This happens a few times during the game in these tight room battles, but it seems to occur only if you play keep-away and not engage enemies up close and personal. As you clear stages, you’ll be able to buy and upgrade skills using the orbs collected from downed enemies or found in chests. The skills list is smaller than in the console versions, but interestingly enough, there are more armor and weapons to find in the DS version (seven different bows, seven swords and seven armor sets). Hidden areas in the game are sometimes easy to spot, but a handful of them later in the game require completing a few slightly tricky puzzles that involve pushing blocks onto pressure plates or using the stylus to connect a series of pipes so the colors match from top to bottom. The other three stylus-driven puzzle types are dirt simple: a “Simon” style color matching sequencer and two types of sliding puzzles where a stone “key” needs to be slid into a space.

Replaying stages is necessary if you want to max out Meridia’s ten skills and blow through the game’s formerly tough enemies, only dealing with the sometimes wonky jumping. The majority of the platforming is solid and simple, but in areas where you need to jump towards the camera, at moving platforms or at an angle, you’ll find poor Meridia taking damage when you think you’ve nailed the leap. It’s not that the controls are bad or the lack of a double jump hurts the game at all – it’s the camera angle that could have been better. Oddly enough in ONE level (Descent of Fire), the camera swings up to make the four jumps across a pit simpler to make. The thing is, that’s one of the levels where it’s not needed as much as it is in the maps with moving, movable or otherwise quirky jumps to take. While you can buy regenerating health for Meridia, even at the highest level it’s a bit slow. So if you get caught up in some bad jumps, lose enough health and then make the trip to spot only to be jumped by a pack of fresh enemies, you’ll be beaten down before you can blink.

That said, the game is very fair about dying, placing you right were you dropped with full health and a chance to take revenge on those beasties that did you in. I only bought the farm twice during the game, once in an element room battle where I got cornered quickly and another time during the Ice Giant boss fight. The game isn’t frustrating at all once you get the jumping down and accept that you’ll miss a few times unless you’ve got reflexes that good. Then again, this isn’t supposed to be Mega Man 9, so it’s clear that Disney and Behaviour Interactive didn’t want kids across America throwing their handhelds at Mommy’s head from the back seat while she was trying to make that U-turn back to the mall to return that game that was too hard for her kid to play. Well, a DS is cheaper these days, so at least it’s easier to replace (provided Mommy isn’t also shelling out for car repairs for the fender-bender the kid get her into). Thankfully, the game is good enough to help avoid that little scenario I cooked up.

Visually, the game has that nicely pixel-packed PSOne look many DS games have, so some of you will hate it for that right off the bat. That said, environments and backgrounds are nicely detailed and there’s a nice amount of depth to them thanks to some clever asset usage. You’re not limited to straight left to right movement either, as some levels have you moving towards or away from the camera in order to locate hidden chests or get to some puzzles. There’s a decent enough variety of stages that the game isn’t recycling anything but the same few enemy types, but again, no kid is going to complain about that because they’ll be too busy slashing shooting and jumping about. There’s a bit of voice work from Kelly McDonald here with Gavin Hammon narrating the brief tutorial portions. Music is the same as the console versions, so be prepared to hear some nicely motivating Scottish-sounding tunes as you play.

My major caveat about the game is there’s only one difficulty setting, which is going to make this a one-time play for some core gamers who might have wanted to give this a shot. That said, if you farm away for gold by replaying stages, this extends the game time by a nice amount. As for replay value versus cost and all that, see my PS3 review for my take on that. You get the same free movie ticket coupon deal and as this IS the internet age, shopping around for lower prices on new games is dirt simple. As the DS version has three save slots (unlike the PS3 game which overwrites its save file when you start a new game), you can at least play through the game multiple times or lend it out to a friend to see if they can get 100%. Overall, what’s here is pretty solid stuff, but I’d have loved to see a Vita version just so the developer could do a portable game that was closer to the scale of the console versions of Meridia’s adventure.  Then again, I guess that’s what sequels are for, right?

3 thoughts on “Review: Brave The Video Game (NDS)

  1. I took my family and a few of my co-workers from Dish to go see the movie Brave last weekend and we actually enjoyed it. I loved how they presented the mother-daughter relationship. Since there is a video game of Brave we ordered it on Blockbuster @Home because we can keep the games as long as we want instead of returning them right away.

    Like

    • Enjoy the game – the developers took some liberties with the story, but as you’ve seen the film already, you’ll know what’s different right away.

      g.

      Like

  2. Pingback: New Additions: Nintendo DS | "DESTROY ALL FANBOYS!"

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