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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

BRAVE seeks the Spirit Dancer on PS2

Set in a fantastical world based upon the mythology of Native America, Playstation 2 "BRAVE" tells the coming of age story of Brave, a young Native American boy embarking on an epic journey to save his tribe.

Search for the Spirit Dancer
When his village is set upon by the evil Wendigo, and his friends are enslaved, Brave is sent to find the only one that can free them -- Spirit Dancer, the greatest Shaman who ever lived.

Brave Adventures
Hunting snarling evil wolves in a huge forest of towering Redwood trees, canoeing down raging river rapids, tracking the legendary Sasquatch through a swirling blizzard and battling on the back of a buffalo in the middle of a stampede are just some of the breathtaking challenges Brave will face.

World of good and evil
His journey will take him across a beautifully rich and interactive world inhabited by remarkable characters, bizarre creatures, and terrifying evil spirits.

Tough oponents
Along Braves journey he will encounter many enemies including giant bees, wolves, grizzly bears, paint beetles, rock goblins, and cliff ogres. Some of Brave's toughest opponents are the Fallen warriors; powerful skeletal warriors who act under the bidding of the Wendigo who always attack in groups and even the loss of limbs won't deter these warriors.

Art of Mimicry
Brave will gain a great deal of help from the creatures inhabiting his world, creatures well experienced in surviving the treacherous lands. Brave learns the ancient art of mimicry, allowing him to attract and lure the animals of the forest to help him on his quest. If Brave can learn the ways of the Shaman, he too can possess animals by mentally transferring himself into their physical form -- possessing the body of a rabbit for example will allow Brave access to rabbit holes and smaller, tight spaces. Or to possess an angry grizzly bear to wipe out lots of enemies.

Reviewers Comments:
Brave falls into the increasing genre-bending category that "platformers" once occupied, thus making comparisons with the great moments of this genre a little inequitable.

Unfortunately, Brave attempts to borrow key elements from many of those great titles, and comes up short. Gameplay is a mixture of tactless hack n' slash melee fighting, and point-A to point-B courier missions. If you're someone who enjoys melee fighting and courier missions you will be rewarded with a fairly decent game length, however, I can't see anyone playing it too many times over.

The graphics are functional and recognisable but could have been better realised, and the art direction falls short of its intended impact with a lack of technical finesse and support from the environments.

Pleasing music and sound effects along with a reasonably high level of presentation throughout lifts the production of the game, however some nasty dialogue and voice-acting tends to let down the story oriented cut-scenes.

All in all, it's a mediocre, but fun fantasy romp. Most suitable for kids or platform aficionados so those raised on this sort of thing will probably just play another round of Mario Sunshine.

Rating: 6/10

Another review

Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer (PS2)

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: Vis Entertainment / SCEE
Genre: Action Adventure
Release Date: August 8, 2006

By Benjamin Turner | July 10, 2006
Are you ready for the first Native American platformer since Whomp 'Em on the NES? Probably.

Lots of variety; cute characters; solid gameplay.

Graphics could be better; too easy for some.

Now that the big guys like Naughty Dog and Insomniac have packed up their gear and moved on to PlayStation 3 development, there exists an opening for smaller, lesser known developers to jump into the spotlight with some new attempts at platform games. One of the first such titles will be VIS Entertainment's Brave: The Search for Spirit Dancer. Brave draws from Native American iconography to dress up what looks to be a typical but solid platforming experience.

The mandatory plotline begins as Brave, a young Native American brave (oddly enough), is passing the final trials to become a full-fledged warrior. And it's not a moment too soon, of course, as for some reason an ancient evil called Wendigo suddenly decides to resurrect itself and lay waste to Brave's peaceful valley. With his tribe decimated and his grandfather killed, Brave follows the old man's final advice by setting out to find Spirit Dancer, the warrior who defeated Wendigo long ago.

Ways of the Warrior

Like many recent 3D platformers, Brave imposes a sense of order on its large environments by giving the player clear-cut mission objectives that must be accomplished to move the story forward. For example, one early level has you hunting down three queen beetles in a huge series of canyons so that you can use their colorful blood to complete a crucial trio of cave paintings. A later mission sets you loose in a large wooded area, tasking you to slay twelve huge wolves that are rampaging about.

Brave also gains new abilities and equipment as he soldiers on. A lot of the first upgrades are really basic, such as the ability to dive underwater for short periods, climb ivy on trees, and mimic animal calls (for puzzle-solving purposes). As for weapons, Brave's arsenal starts out with a mere stick. It can be set on fire, mind you, but that doesn't make it much more imposing. Luckily he soon scores a tomahawk, which can slice enemies to ribbons and destroy boulders with a special charge move. A bow and arrow is also in the cards, which adds a ranged element to the action.

I played a couple hours into Brave for this preview, and the game was still introducing new elements every so often. One of the more interesting is the possession power, which lets Brave temporarily take over animals for recon or chase purposes. He can also learn to transform into spirit creatures to give an edge in certain large battles. The first transformation Brave acquires is a massive, ghostly bear; this proved quite adept at destroying a large mob of attacking zombies with a full set of nasty new attacks. Altered Beast, eat your heart out. Hopefully this element will expand on itself as the game progresses.

Kid Friendly

The combat and platforming is all pretty easy, as least as far as I've played for this preview. It strikes a good balance; while it's easy, so far the gameplay is still compelling enough to keep my interest. Brave's cute, cartoony style probably skews a bit younger than the Jak series, so it's good that its difficulty doesn't quite seem to approach that of Naughty Dog's platformers.

Speaking of cute, it is indeed. Brave and his tribe are rendered in a style that's like a cross between Lilo and Stitch and THQ's Tak games, with appropriately energetic voice acting to go along. Outside of the characters, the look of Brave's world is fairly mundane and realistic. There are a few nice views from atop cliffs, but for the most part the graphics take a backseat to the action.

Altogether, Brave seems a pretty decent package. While it's not going to blow away its higher-profile ancestors, Brave hits most of the required platforming bases and looks to feature an agreeable amount of variety. Add in the kid-friendly difficulty and SouthPeak has a solid little game on its hands. Have your war paint ready for early August.

Rob's comment
This game has a bunch of stereotypical Native elements: Brave, Spirit Dancer, shaman, Wendigo, Sasquatch, buffalo, etc. Based on the first writeup, there's no sign of any authentic Native cultures. No Native culture was linked to redwoods, Wendigo, and buffalo, since these were located in three separate regions. Hence my conclusion that the game is a mishmash and stereotypical.

The second writeup indicates that Brave wields a tomahawk and turns into animals—more examples of stereotypes.

Judging by the picture as well as the writeups, the game features a young Native boy. A boy that age wouldn't go on a coming-of-age quest and wouldn't wear warpaint for a non-martial adventure (finding a shaman). He probably wouldn't wear warpaint or call himself a "brave" (or the equivalent) for several more years.

Also, his cutesy look—big head and eyes—is a typical example of infantilizing Indians to make them less serious and threatening. This is the same reason Americans encouraged the notion of the Great White Father and his children when referring to Indians. It's the same reason our culture promotes Indian mascots and cartoon characters such as L'il Hiawatha, Pow Wow Boy, and the Go-Go Gophers.

Related links
Tipis, feather bonnets, and other Native American stereotypes

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Original text and pictures © copyright 2007 by Robert Schmidt.

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