3D Attack Interactive assumes you've met the acquaintance of the Super Mario Bros. Hence the name of their game: The Other Brothers [$1.99], a throwback platformer featuring pleasantly pixelated graphics and music straight out of the MIDI era. Everything that Mario and Luigi do, brothers Joe and Jim can do too. They run, jump, and rescue damsels in distress, but the mechanics of those actions work a little differently. Speaking of, I'd wager you've probably heard more about The Other Brothers' controls than you have the game's lengthy development cycle, so let's take a moment to clear the air.
Prior to the update that 3D Attack pushed through earlier this week, The Other Brothers' controls were awful. Touchscreen controls are, well, touchy to begin with, but The Other Brothers used a floating control pad that moved with your thumb. The pad tended to float around even when you were trying to hold your thumb still to, say, guide your character up a ladder. Other times, the control pad didn't track my thumb, leaving me to plummet down a pit or stand around waiting for a burly thug to clock me in the jaw.
The latest update added several control schemes, one of which is a locked-in-place pad. I restarted the game and had a much more enjoyable time jumping on enemy skulls and double-jumping over pits. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that the revised control scheme lends The Other Brothers an excellent feel, one of those intangible X-factors that makes Super Mario games so great. Jumping on a noggin triggers a screen-rattling shake and a heavy smack sound. That visceral feedback mixes well with the responsiveness of the controls, and a mix of enemy behaviors such as running from attacks and blocking the wrenches you throw keeps encounters from growing tedious and cookie-cutter.
Getting the controls up to snuff means you can actually enjoy the game's clever levels. You'll run and jump through junkyards, huge factories, and my personal favorite, a subway where you race along tracks and jump into hidey-holes before trains barreling in from the side flatten everything in their path. Each level is huge and throws the usual platformer distractions your way: items that boost your score, golden pigeons to collect, and a ticking timer to race.
With the controls fixed, other aspects of the game could use a tune-up. Picking up pigeons saves you from dying when enemies tag you, but the birds--being birds--try to fly away when you get close. You lose pigeons when you get hit, like how Sonic the Hedgehog drops his rings when he bumps into an enemy, but Sonic didn't have to chase down his life-saving accessories to begin with. Enemies can tag you from off-screen, drop on you from overhead ledges you can't see, and some of them step forward or back and score a free hit just before you can land on them.
None of those minor issues soured me on the experience--mostly because the experience was solid, but also because it didn't last that long. Out of the proverbial box, The Other Brothers offers only eight levels. 3D Attack promises future levels as free DLC, but I estimate most gamers finishing the game as it stands in under an hour, including those who take the time to track down golden pigeons.
With all the comparisons and nods to Super Mario Bros., mobile gamers might wonder if The Other Brothers is their platformer's Mario. I wouldn't go that far, but 3D Attack's long-awaited entry in the house that Mario built is charming, humorous, and most importantly, feels darn good in motion. Give it time to grow and I foresee it getting even better.
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