Artifex Mundi are synonymous with hidden object, point-and-click adventures that often see you investigating the disappearance of someone and then subsequently rescuing them from the clutches of demons, beasts and evil preachers. But now it’s time for something rather different as My Brother Rabbit aims to deliver a heart-warming adventure that delves into the imagination of children and the surreal worlds they often conjure up in their minds. Does it actually leave you all warm and fuzzy though, or should Artifex have just stuck with their tried and tested formula?
My Brother Rabbit tells the tale of a family who are going through a tough time after the youngest child, the daughter, suddenly falls ill. As a result she’s subjected to all kinds of treatment in a bid to cure her of the unspecified illnesses and naturally it takes its toll on the whole family. Despite the troubling matters at hand, her big brother does whatever he can to take her mind off it all and attempts to distract using his imagination. Together they create a land of make believe, in which a caring rabbit looks after his sick friend, a flower. This is the world we’ll be playing within and what a joyful, if somewhat strange, place it is to be.
Despite the minimalistic approach to the storytelling, with short cutscenes and no words to be seen or spoken, the message is strong and is so easy to interpret that it works darn well. The emotional connection to these two loving siblings is confounded by their obvious resiliency and that poor little made up flower – representing the girl – is so sad that it’s hard to not feel empathy. At a few points throughout, something seemingly innocuous gave me goosebumps and I thought I’d have to grasp for a handkerchief, because I had become so engaged. As a result, the incentive is well and truly present for you to help the rabbit to look after his friend on the tricky road ahead.
There are five chapters in total and fundamentally, My Brother Rabbit is a point-and-clicker with a whole load of hidden objects and mini-games. On paper, you’d be forgiven for thinking that’s rather familiar to what the developers have done before, but trust me when I say the approach is very different and in many ways, better. The controls are incredibly easy to get the hang of, with just a cursor to move using the analog stick, a button to interact and the d-pad for an optional way to swiftly move between scenes.
Obstacles will prevent you from traversing through all of the static scenes in each world though, and to overcome them you must collect a set number of similar items, before then completing and mini-game to advance. What that objective does is turn every single scene into a treasure trove of potential hidden objects and some aren’t easy to find at all. Artifex Mundi have been very clever in ensuring certain items you’ll need are only obtained by thinking outside the box. For example, there’s a bit early on that requires ladder rungs and it took me a while to figure out that I could combine an item with a machine to produce the necessary part. Occasionally they’re hidden inside another object entirely, so environmental interaction is essential. There are moments of frustration when you know there’s an item you need in an area – because the game indicates that – however that feeling is replaced instantly upon success of finding it, with pure joy, elation and a lot of admiration for those who designed such a smart solution.
As for the mini-games, well, you may recognise a fair few of the concepts, with the presence of games involving placing cogs correctly in a machine, the manoeuvring of blocks to create a path to the exit for another block (a la the Rush Hour sliding puzzle), and the repetition of sequences shown to you. Granted, these mini-games are still really enjoyable, challenging and satisfying to complete, but the fresher ideas that have been implemented such as the balancing of weights, piecing together a set of odd shapes in the correct manner to make a whole one (a tangram puzzle), and domino matching game using insects, are very welcome. It’s worth pointing out that the way the puzzle concepts are presented is much better than I’m making them sound, trust me.
Most of what you’ll be partaking in is leading to a mega puzzle to conclude each chapter and these require you to finish the construction of a wacky contraption, using only the items in the vicinity. Fortunately there are plans drawn up for you to see which parts are needed and where they need placing, because otherwise it’d be tough to figure out certain aspects for building a robotic moose head – just one of the very cool, but odd contraptions. These are always multi-faceted problems to solve, with some essential items not quite fitting the requirements, leading to that old thinking cap being needed.
In terms of the visuals, it’s gorgeously hand-drawn and every scene is full of attractive objects to gaze your eyes upon. Whilst there are darker, grimmer environments – especially the sections in which the bits of the hospital are more noticeably incorporated – they’re still beautiful sights in their own way. Due to these bizarre places coming from the children’s imagination, most of the creatures are extremely cute and it’s all very fantastical. One slight negative is that when the scenes become animated for a cutscene, there’s a serious drop in quality and it goes a tad pixelated.
The lush artwork is merely one aspect of creating the necessary, relaxing atmosphere though and without a decent musical score to accompany it, it wouldn’t be the same. So it’s a good job that the audio is utterly delightful and falls softly on the ears during each and every moment of My Brother Rabbit. The title music is terrific too, if a little eerie, and Emi Evans is responsible for performing the lovely vocals for it, which are a mixture of the Norwegian and Sumerian languages – you’ll be humming the tranquil melody for days.
My Brother Rabbit takes everything that Artifex Mundi are known for and puts a new spin on it to create a wonderful journey, lasting around four hours. The puzzles give a great satisfaction for solving them, the scenes are brilliantly designed and everything’s challenging enough without forcing you to rage quit. Best of all is the story at the heart of the journey, because whilst it’s sad, there are uplifting moments and you can feel the love that these siblings have for each other. I’m getting a bit emotional just writing about it.
Putting the minor visual issues and familiar mini-games aside, My Brother Rabbit is a must have for point-and-click aficionados thanks to it being a lovely experience with a heartfelt tale and a ton of clever puzzles to overcome.