Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer ReviewCain Dornan
Ah, the classic adventure genre. Since the days of the early NES, each consecutive system has offered a large number of adventure titles that has seen almost every form of human or creature becoming the star of an epic trekking adventure through creative worlds. The problem with this, though, is that many adventure games fail to introduce something new, something unique, that will effectively capture the interest of gamers and hold it through to the completion of the title.
As such, the adventure genre has become a genre largely focused towards the younger gaming crowd. The colourful, creative and imaginary creatures that usually adorn each adventure title often don’t appeal to the older game; therefore, many developers have opted to direct their titles towards the younger crowd. VIS Entertainment has decided to take this common route, creating a world filled with cartoon-like characters and simplistic gameplay that provides an enjoyable experience for the younger generation, while a somewhat tiring one for the more mature crowd.
Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer follows the interesting adventure of a young Native American warrior in search of a powerful, legendary Shaman, Spirit Dancer, who, coincidently, turns out to be his father. You begin the game with an interesting cinematic showing a young, vibrant girl attempting to sneak past a large sleeping bear. As luck would have it, she steps on a twig, resulting in a snap that awakens the furious bear. A chase sequence is then initiated, requiring you to guide Brave through a rather simple course, jumping to avoid holes and spiky bushes that inflict damage. Upon escaping from the bear’s hatred, you are guided through a series of rather simple activities that introduce the basics of the game. Soon, though, you are sent on your way packed with your fighting stick, knowledge of animal tracking and a special rock that allows you to communicate with your wise elder.
As one would expect, you will gain the use of a number of weapons as you progress through the game, each suitably increasing in power and usability. You’ll soon upgrade from the measly stick through to an impressive tomahawk; its blade glowing from the blade coming into contact with glowing beetle juice. As you arrive in each new area, you will be rewarded with a new weapon that will assist you in that specific portion of the game; a longbow, for example, is an appropriate weapon to hunt evil wolves, striking them down from a distance before they are capable of launching their powerful attacks. Later on, you will receive a throwing axe that aids you in your climbing quest to destroy lava rocks that are blocking your path. The range of weapons on offer are appropriate to your Native American heritage, strengthening the title’s background story.
Weapons would be virtually useless without any enemy creatures to slay. The Search for Spirit Dancer offers a modest selection of enemies, changing appropriately to suit the area you are in. During the forest stages, for example, you will encounter large bugs, spikey echidnas and ferocious wolves, while during an icy exploration you will find Arctic-like creatures such as the Emperor Penguins. Unfortunately, the limited variety of creatures available can become tiring, as the repetitive fighting system offers little variation between defeating each individual creature of the same type.
Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer incorporates two forms of creature controlling maneuvers that allows Brave to venture to new locations or perform actions that were previously impossible to Brave. Shortly into the game you are introduced to the ability to mimic the sound of other animals. Mimicking an eagle, for example, will capture the eagle’s attention and allow Brave to soar through the air, collecting important statue blocks and re-arranging them to allow Brave to talk to a large rock creature. At other times, mimicking the sound of a timid creature will make it become more relaxed, allowing you to attack it easier or possess it. Possessing animals is another form of controlling creatures, essentially allowing you to take on the form of an animal. Possessing a rabbit, for example, will allow you to enter previously inaccessible areas through small holes. Possessing a powerful bear, on the other hand, will allow you to utilize its strength to defeat hordes of enemies. Both forms of creature controlling does add a unique, interesting twist to the game, helping to differentiate the game from so many other adventure titles that offer little variation.
Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer offers simple, yet effective visuals, appropriately creating a world filled of colour and imagination. Character models remain simplistic, however, cleaver animation, specifically the eyes, mouth and hair, aid in creating interesting looking characters, removing any blandness from each of the interesting characters that you will meet throughout your journey. Environment detail remains simple but varied, creatively forming a large, sprawling forest or icy, foggy shores with visibility being limited to a matter of meters. As the developers intended, the game has created a simplistic cartoon world that does not hinder the gameplay in any form.
Solid voice acting supports the role of each character. Brave himself, for example, offers a young, yet determined voice that accurately portrays Brave’s personality. The music selection is also pleasing, offering a range of beats that change appropriately during battles. Unfortunately, the sound effects fail to come up to par, offering only a limited range of bland sounds.
While Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer doesn’t do anything revolutionary, what is available combines to create an interesting adventure. The game is obviously targeted towards the younger crowd of gamers, offering simplistic gameplay that varies accordingly as you progress. The only disappointing aspects of the game are the ordinary sound effects, repetitive battle system and nothing completely distinguishable, apart from the animal possession and mimicking, from many other adventure titles currently on the market. Nevertheless, the game is worthy only as a rent for the more mature generation of gamers, while the 5 to 11 year old age bracket will likely find plenty to enjoy.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.