My Brother Rabbit is a point ‘n’ click adventure which tells its tale through puzzles and whimsy instead of words. The story is developed through visuals and sound, with the central theme focusing on imagination. Specifically, the use of escapism as a coping strategy in difficult times.
The game opens with a simple and elegant sequence of hand-drawn cutscenes. These depict, vignette style, how a family is affected when their daughter falls ill. Her brother retreats to his imagination, creating an outlandish fantasy world in order to deal with the anxiety about his sister’s condition. It seems to be his way of managing his feelings and processing the gravity of the situation. This fantasy world is a source of comfort and play for both kids, shielding them from a more grown-up reality.
Without further exposition, you are dropped into the surreal and mysterious cartoon world, assuming the role of Brother Rabbit. You find yourself with an obvious goal of climbing a ladder to move to the outside world, but you have to assemble the ladder first. So begins the exploring, as you comb every inch of the room looking for parts. Hints are sparse, with a window in the top right of the screen indicating how many parts are required but proffering few clues on how to proceed.
You soon realise there is a degree of multi-tasking involved. To obtain the requisite ladder parts you’ll need to be working on the next task too, gathering string to access the next room. This pretty much sets the rhythm of the game: spinning plates, prodding and probing, collecting parts and frequently backtracking between areas. You will regularly have several tasks running concurrently, as the solution is rarely confined to one area.
You won’t get far by simply clicking randomly on the screen and hoping for the best, although accidental discoveries will naturally occur. Whilst the game is fairly parsimonious when it comes to giving hints, there are subtle signposts to draw your attention to certain areas, for example, is there a reason that fly is buzzing around that area? You must scrutinise all areas carefully. Some items do nothing on the first inspection, but may be required later on. Is it fun to play? Not as such, but there is a satisfaction to be gained from hunting down that last item that seemed to be eluding you.
The puzzles are varied and frequently challenging because conventional logic is not always the surefire approach to a solution. Perhaps this is deliberate, bearing in mind the story of a child creating the fantasy world. It’s very much a case of trial and error and experimentation. As is so often the case, frequently the best tactic is to simply take a break. How often have you returned to a puzzle, with a clear head, only to solve it when the penny immediately drops? There’s no timer counting down, so the only pressure you face is a frustration-induced rage.
The game is draped in a charming, hand-drawn cartoon aesthetic, serving up plenty of variety across the five different lands. It’s as warm and inviting as a hot chocolate on a winter’s night, whilst proving, once again, that a strong and endearing art style is more important than reaching the highest level of graphical fidelity. The sound effects are pleasing too, with a dreamlike quality to the music that is initially quite soothing, providing you’re not stuck on a puzzle at the time.
Downsides? Whilst I admire the lack of hand homing, I would prefer the option of a further hint mechanic. There are occasions where it feels like you have exhausted all possibilities, searched every nook and cranny, flexed all your lateral thinking, and yet cannot fathom the solution. Locked in that kind of stalemate, the game should surely offer a finite number of more explicit hints to help you along. Instead, it maroons you with your own anger. Not good, as DualShocks are expensive to replace. The pace of the game doesn’t vary much, and with an extended play, I began to grow a little weary, despite the obvious charm and creativity on display. It’s best suited to short bursts of play.
Overall, I’m inclined to give My Brother Rabbit a qualified recommendation. It’s genuinely different, lovely to behold and enjoyable to play when you’re in the right frame of mind. If you don’t enjoy more sedate adventures of this ilk, however, My Brother Rabbit probably won’t change your mind, and the game could be a lot more generous in throwing you a lifeline for those moments of frustration.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*