Let’s dispense with pleasantries, shall we? We all know that games based on movies are usually average or downright awful, with THQ’s excellent Puss in Boots perhaps being the only notable exception of late. So, we won’t dwell on that.
Or we wouldn’t dwell on that, were THQ’s latest Disney/Pixar crossover, Brave: The Video Game, not a title that seems to have set “average” as its target. The Kinect support in this one is limited to a terrifyingly bad Archery Range mode which sits outside of the main game, seemingly thrown in as a lazy afterthought. Aim with one hand, nock the arrow with the other hand, and then throw that second hand in the air to fire. It should be simple, but it just doesn’t work. Even firing an arrow at the menu option you want is a task that we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy, with the aiming reticule jumping around the screen pretty much all of the time.
So, we’re left with the standard game.
Playing as the redheaded princess Merida as she attempts to fight off the curse of Mor’du – which has turned her mother into a bear – you must run through several levels, taking on enemies with either your sword or your bow and arrow. The third person viewpoint is zoomed out far too wide, most of the time, and even though that’s the case there are times when you’ll feel the exact opposite; the camera refuses to show you what you’re aiming at, or show you enough of the next jump for you to be able to leap with any sort of conviction. That’s if the next jump or view change isn’t plagued by some of the worst slowdown we’ve seen on an apparently 'complete' Xbox 360 game in quite some time.
But, despite some downright awful bad points, Brave does feature some high spots. We like the Geometry Wars-style right-stick control system for the bow and arrow, and the ability to tip your arrows or sword blade with elemental forces means that different tactics come into play when faced with a screenful of enemies. Some are susceptible to fire, others to ice, wind, or water, and arming the right elemental kick to your shots at the right time can be the difference between winning and losing a battle.
However, the game doesn’t really punish you enough when you do fail. Often, you’ll be crushed under a thrown rock, only to be placed no more than a handful of steps away from the location of your death with a full health bar. This, combined with a generally pedestrian difficulty level means that even younger players will more than likely complete the game in three to four hours.
Brave: The Video Game is an exercise in mediocrity. It has the now-standard Pixar charm and does some things well, but for every high point, there's a low one not too far away. The Kinect mode is all but unusable, and brings the game down another point.