Adventure games of recent time have tended to have cutesy characters as their protagonists -- and Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer is certainly no exception. With his anime-looks and cute as a button lethal axe, Brave joins the likes of Spyro and Crash at the kid-friendly end of the market.
And you can tell its kid-friendly (apart from cartoonish graphics, of course) thanks to Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer's sledgehammer insistence on telling players exactly what they have to do next at all times. This will quickly irk some older gamers, but it'll surely help guide the little ones through what can be a complex adventure at times (thankfully you can tone down the number of hints in the game's options menu).
Brave's Native American folklore-inspired storyline sees the title character on an epic quest to find Spirit Dancer, the greatest shaman in the history of his tribe, to help rid his village of evil spirits. Along the way, Brave will learn many new abilities as well as play through plenty of mini-game-like challenges, including fishing, riding a canoe, tracking animals and much more.
Brave himself can do all of the typical adventure hero moves, including running, swimming, climbing and attacking. While you initially start off with a measly stick as a weapon, you'll soon gain an axe, which can be charged for an even more powerful attack. Other weapons you'll find in the game include throwing axes and a bow.
Brave also has other special abilities which will pop up throughout the course of the game. One of the most used is his tracking ability, which allows him to uncover hidden animal tracks to gain bonuses. This feature is nicely integrated -- every time you get near a hidden track, the PlayStation control rumbles. The stronger the rumble, the closer you are.
As befits his close links with nature, Brave can mimic the calls of some animals, which can often help on his quest. One early use, for example, has Brave mimicking a crow's call in order attract a murder of crows guarding a location the little warrior needs to access. Brave can even 'become' certain animals at points throughout the adventure, such as when he has to take over a rabbit's body to access a remote glade, or when he harnesses the spirit of a bear to beat off a wave of attackers.
While the inclusion of these mini-games lend Brave some variety, it is at its core a fairly simple game with simple controls. Brave's attacks are fairly limited -- you'll find yourself bashing the one button over and over, with few combos to uncover. The puzzles and quests you'll come across are also fairly standard, and are usually of the "fetch this" or "kill this many number of creatures" variety.
The game tries its best to make sure you're never at a loss as to what to do. One of the biggest helps is the in-game map, which always highlights your next objective in blue. There are also the constant clues in the form of messages from your village elder, which will spell out explicitly what needs to be done next. These messages come thick and fast -- it's almost annoying if you're an experienced gamer, but thankfully it can be toned down somewhat through the options menu.
While the graphics in Brave are bright and colourful, the game's camera will probably frustrate most as it often has trouble keeping up with the on-screen action. Move Brave only slightly and the chances are the camera will reposition in an awkward spot where it's difficult to see your enemies or where you need to go.
Older gamers will probably want something a bit more challenging, but younger children will find a lot to enjoy in Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer.
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