We all know Mario & Luigi from way back in their original Mario Bros. game back in 1983. The plumbers get all the notoriety in their magical Mushroom Kingdom, but The Other Brothers are mechanics facing the same type of challenges, including trying to save a damsel in distress, but in the grimy real world. Joe & Jim are “The Other Brothers”, and they’re part of a new iOS platformer that has been such a long time in development, but is finally here. The game is inspired by the classic platformers, but infused with a modern twist as you’re running, jumping, collecting, and bouncing on enemies in the junkyard, sewers, construction area, and more.
The Other Brothers looks extremely promising on the surface with that classic platformer style taken up a notch. One of the best parts of the game is that it delivers familiar game mechanics, but expands upon that greatly. You’re not just bouncing on the heads of enemies, but also facing multiple enemies at once that can take multiple hits, and hit you harder than you can hit them. Jumping between moving platforms is included, but now it’s taken up a notch with expansive environments that have forking pathways to explore. The path forward isn’t always clear, and part of the game is simply exploring, and collecting in off shoot branches of the given level.
All of the action instantly stands out thanks to the finely crafted pixel art that has a Superborthers: Sword & Sorcery vibe with 3D flair. The graphics and soundtrack are other instances of retro style with a modern twist. The theme that encompasses everything is the main stand out as you’re battling the mob in such intricately designed real world environments with shout-outs to games of the past. The Other Brothers definitely has a lot going for it, but it does have its own fair share of problems. The main drawback is that the game just doesn’t feel finished, and instead feels more like a beta test with some promising qualities.
The levels are intricately designed, but the game includes only eight levels at launch, with two of those being boss battles. There’s not much depth at all, and that’s not the biggest problem. The controls get in the way of enjoying The Other Brothers, and it’s a definite shame. There’s an on-screen d-pad which is constantly floating with no option to fix it in place. That means that if you lift up your finger, the game will readjust the d-pad when you place your finger again, rather than moving your character. Also, when moving left and right, the controls keep pushing across the screen, which can make them out of reach on the iPad. You can get used to the controls, and they do offer some precision, but only if you never lift your finger off the screen, which is much easier to do on the iPhone. With that said, always leaving your finger on screen isn’t a caveat, but a design flaw.
An update is already in the works with other control options, but you would have thought the developers could have looked at other retro platformers on iOS that have nailed the controls like in Mikey Shorts, and League of Evil. The controls cause more deaths than any other aspect, which is especially noticeable with an unbalanced enemy attack system. The enemies can overlap on one another, and one can attack you while you’re jumping on another, even if they’re occupying the same 2D space. The game is more of a hassle than anything else, and it’s quite frustrating when you see the potential. One surprising problem is that the game doesn’t have that personality or style to make you care about continuing to go through the few included levels. The game is on the bland side despite how it looks on the surface.
The Other Brothers ($0.99, Universal) looks promising, but just doesn’t feel ready for primetime leaving a game that has more problems than highlights. Updates are planned, and we will reevaluate the game accordingly, but for now it seems the developers released a beta on the App Store that is worth skipping at the moment.