Review: Disney Pixar Brave: The Video Game

By Paul Hunter

With Disney Pixar's action-oriented movie Brave hitting theatres this summer, a video game tie-in seems both logical and a natural fit. Set in the rugged landscape of mythical Scotland, Brave: The Video Game is surprisingly faithful to its big-screen counterpart, and just as fun. Disney fans, and families that enjoy gaming together, will have blast following our heroine, Princess Merida, as she explores the rich landscapes of Scotland in attempt to ride the country of the malevolent demon bear Mor'du.

Perhaps what's most interesting about Brave: The Video Game is that quest storyline follows the basic elements from the movie, such as Merida venturing into the forest to obtain magic cake and feeding it to her mother, Queen Elinor, which subsequently turning her into a bear; however, much of the story and animated sequences in the video game are completely original. Actress Kelly MacDonald reprises her role as Princess Merida for the video game, and does an amazing job lending her voice during charming cutscenes as she guides players through the roughly five hour adventure. There is so much story here that MacDonald said in an interview with Forbes that she had more work to do, dialog-wise, than in the actual animated film.

Brave: The Video Game trailer:

Gameplay-wise, Brave: The Video Game feels like a twin-stick shooter, a la Smash TV, with the left analog stick used to move Princess Merida and the right analog stick controls the direction of her bow shots. Overall, controls are simple and intuitive, with one of the face buttons used for jumping and another for swinging Merida's sword. The game has a surprisingly deep ability upgrade system, even moreso than many popular hardcore games, so once you've mastered that basics there's plenty of upgrade abilities to master. For example, early in the game you gain the ability to perform combat dodge rolls, which help you evade enemy attacks in a pinch, and double jumping which further aids in escaping, while also making previously inaccessible areas available for exploration.

Enemies in Brave: The Video Game have an elemental weakness associated with them, making combat a sort of rock, paper, scissors affairs. To ward off the evil rock monsters, walking trees, ice giants and other creatures that plague the Scottish highlands, our heroine can imbue her bow and sword with the Charm powers of Fire, Earth, Ice and Wind. Defeating enemies results in the lobbing of Golden Coins in the air, which are magnetically draw to Merida and can be cashed in at the Merchant for Charm power and ability upgrades. These upgrades significantly boost Merida's powers, her Charm attacks in particular, allowing her to charge her bow for deadly power attacks. For example, imbuing her bow with Earth spawns multiple explosive creatures that detonate upon contact with enemies, and her Ice bow temporarily freezes enemies in their place.

It wouldn't be a Pixar video game without co-op, and Brave: The Video Game implements this feature very smartly. At any time during the campaign, a second player can jump in and assume control of a friendly Wisp. This character has unlimited lives and can materialize next to Merida at any time, meaning younger players never have to worry about the dangers posed by enemies, and can also avoid particularly nasty jumps by instantly warping to Merida after she completes them.

Mixing up the action a bit are puzzle sequences featuring Merida's three young brothers (who have also been turned into bears). These sequences range from simplistic to occasionally taxing, and are a welcome addition to the game. Adding further diversity to the gameplay are sequences where you assume Queen Elinor in bear form, who moves with much less finesse than Merida, yet makes this deficit up with wrecking ball-esque destructive power.

If you're looking for fun, family-friendly outing, Disney Pixar Brave: The Video Game is sure to please. The game is a bit on a short side, lasting about five hours, however with many hidden collectibles a vast upgrade system there are reasons to jump back in and continue playing. Brave: The Video Game joins other notable recent Pixar video games, such as Cars 2 and Toy Story 3, that has made a successful jump from the big screen to our home screens.

Disney Pixar Brave: The Video Game is available now for Kinect for Xbox 360, PlayStation Move for PS3, Wii, and Nintendo DS. The game was developed by Montreal-based Behaviour Interactive and published by Disney Interactive Studios.

The game is rated E for Everyone (Fantasy Violence).

[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]