There are precious few games (or films, for that matter) that boast an all-action female lead. Before you beg to differ and cite Lara Croft in evidence, think about how many girls you actually remember playing that game. With Disney Pixar’s Brave, however, we have a strong, resourceful all-action heroine. Like the movie, Brave the video game revolves around Merida, a spirited girl who happens to be rather good with the bow. She’s no sidekick, and she’s also far less of a caricature than Japanese gaming heroines, Zelda included.
No surprise, then, that Disney Interactive chose to launch the game of its Brave movie at an archery range, with Archery GB rising star Becky Martin as guest. This bubbly 16-year-old is aiming for Olympic Gold one day. She’s very much a girl, and enjoys listening to Lady GaGa, but she can hit a bull’s-eye at 70m too.
Brave is a third-person-shooter, which ironically does make it reminiscent of Tomb Raider, with adventures and quests alongside the combat. Much of the time, gameplay revolves around Merida herself, and is essentially single-player. There is a co-op mode, but this isn’t as flexible or egalitarian as, for example, the Lego games. The second player ends up with the Wisp character. However, the main player also gets to operate Queen Elinor transformed into a bear on occasion.
The plot of the game doesn’t slavishly follow that of the film, but instead acts as a supplement. The main theme is a quest to reverse spells cast on Merida’s family, with puzzles and battles along the way, mostly conquered with the bow, which can be augmented with power-ups as you earn coins. Like the Lego games, or the seminal Simpsons Hit and Run, accomplishing most tasks releases these coins, which can then be used to buy power-ups and potions at the local shop. These constant rewards will help keep the kids engaged.
The platform elements of the game do leave a little to be desired, however. It’s not always easy to see the true dimensions of your targets as you jump, and restarts ensue as a result. Fortunately, none are impossible to surmount so the game flow isn’t impeded too much. In combat, different types of ammo suit different types of foe, and you’re prompted to choose the right one by floating symbols above each enemy’s head. With varied combat adversaries arriving in groups, there is plenty here to keep you happy, at least for an hour or two.
Overall, though, whilst this isn’t the best movie tie-in game on the market – we would still give the Lego series that award – fans of the movie will enjoy the chance to spend greater time with the characters, following additional stories that build on the richness of the film. The graphics borrow gratifyingly from the film, too. It’s great to see a wholesome all-action female that boys won’t mind playing either. As much some of us might like our little princesses to emulate the toughness of Ripley from the Alien series, we’d probably rather they didn’t until they were well into their teens. Until then, there’s Merida.
Brave is available on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and Microsoft Windows.
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