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Pilot Brothers

Pilot Brothers


Developer: Gamos The title screen.The title screen.
Released: 1997.09.22
Genre: Mystery / Comedy
Graphics: Cartoon / 2D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Point-and-Click










Pilot Brothers may be something exotic and different to many players, even to those who have played through a number of adventure games already. The game is based on Russian animation characters, named Brother Chief and Brother Collegue. These characters were created by animation studio Pilot, thus the name "Pilot Brothers". It makes sense if one thinks about it, but if one doesn't, then there can be some confusion as to why these characters are supposed be called "pilots" when in fact they are detectives.

So a detective game it is. The game was originally released in Russia and in Russian, but there is a later, slightly modernised international version of it as well, with several language options. This review is based on the 2014 international release. The differences between the original and international versions are minor, so for all practical purposes it's the same game and it shouldn't matter which version one plays (not counting language issues). The game audio is available in five languages and on-screen texts in six more. Unfortunately there is no way to choose a language combination, so playing in English for instance, means that both audio and texts will be in English. Changing setting to the original Russian changes both. In practise, there is very little spoken audio during the game. There is not that much on-screen texts either, mostly just item descriptions, so even playing the game in any language (or playing the Russian only version) should be doable in most cases.

The reason for lack of textual content becomes obvious when studying the gameplay. While the game does look and play like a point-and-click game with inventory and everything, it doesn't really tell a big story. Yes, there indeed is a plot. An elephant stolen from a zoo. There will be a conclusion in the end. But the story arch really doesn't develop any further than that. Basically the game is a puzzle game, where puzzles don't connect to the story that much.

Pilot Brothers working on the case.Pilot Brothers working on the case.
The game world consists of 15 areas, and going through the game means solving one area, which is self-contained, and then moving on to the next. Even inventory is reset in every area, so there's really no fetch quests or dialogue puzzles. In most areas one needs to pick up items and use them somehow to open doors or clear paths to gain access to the next area. There are some exceptions to this. In some areas one must simply go through some timed puzzles, either avoiding being hit or trying to be hit by something.

Some players may question the genre-labeling, and say that Pilot Brothers is a puzzle game and not an adventure. However, it is clearly character-based and does have a story, even if very loose one, so most players would be content to call it an adventure. Because there's no dialogue to speak of (pun intended) and all areas are self-contained, the game is very fast to finish. If there are any challenging puzzles, there's a hint button to highlight hotspots and even a video button which will show a complete walkthrough for each area! There is a short loading time for the video to be available though. The hardest puzzle in the game even has a skip button, so it's unlikely that anyone will get completely stuck in the game.

There are some problems with the approach that the game has. Firstly, as it's very much puzzle-based, the game mechanics is also puzzle-based. What this means is that sometimes players are supposed to do something without knowing that doing something like that is even possible. There are puzzles where the protagonists, or at least one of them, need to be located in a specific spot. But these spots are not labeled in any way, so they act like hidden hotspots of sorts. Trying every action on interactable hotspots just to find out eventually that there's a hidden hotspot is somewhat frustrating.

Secondly, a series of puzzles does not create a narrative. Yes, sometimes there is a continuation of some kind, such as a guy fleeing from one area and then re-appearing in the next. But as far as the storyline goes, this series of puzzles leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Why was the elephant stolen from the zoo in the first place? Why an elephant? Why not a monkey? Either these questions are irrelevant enough to be left unanswered even after finishing the game, or maybe they somehow are tied to these characters in one of their animated stories. All we know is that a guy called Karbofoss steals an elephant, our adventurous protagonists puzzle hard to get it back. And perhaps that's really all that there is to it.

Some scenes are more "puzzle" than "adventure" by nature.Some scenes are more "puzzle" than "adventure" by nature.
Most of the action and gags in the game are visual by nature. Part of the fascination obviously lies in seeing animated characters "alive" in the game and being able to control them. Players get to control both Brother Chief and Brother Collegue, which is easy as a single click on character icon switches the active character. Both of them can interact with same objects, but most of the time the results differ. Sometimes an attempted action provides a hilarious gag of some kind, sometimes it solves part of a puzzle, and sometimes it simply triggers an audio saying "I don't get it". What is confusing is that sometimes it doesn't matter which character is used, for instance when picking up an object, but with some objects only one of them is able to pick it up for some reason. Both can access the same inventory, even if they would be located in places where sharing same objects would in real life be impossible.

The strongest point of the game is no doubt animation, which is very fitting as it is based on animation characters. Trying out even things which one knows for sure to be wrong solutions just to see if something hilarious will pop up, is probably what most players end up doing at some point. Most of the real solutions are somewhat random, they don't follow real-life logic nor adventure game logic, but guess in the strange world of these characters it doesn't matter.

The protagonists end up in some strange situations.The protagonists end up in some strange situations.
Overall the game is a fun little thing, maybe best suited as a "snack" between bigger adventure games. For a couple of hours that it lasts at best, it is entertaining. The biggest problem is definetely the lack of narrative, as now it seeems to be more a collection of 15 puzzle rooms. There really isn't a save game feature, but none is really needed, solved areas will appear as flags in a sort of city view, and can be revisited.

Pilot Brothers isn't a game that every fan of the genre must experience as a landmark game. Having said that, however, the game does have a cult status among players who come from countries that once belonged to the Soviet Union. Much of the appeal that the game has is based on that cultural connection. For those, who have known these characters for years, the game is obviously a possibility to interact with that world. For those who have never heard about them, the game offers a virtual voyage to another culture, which at times is rewarding and at times frustrating, kind of like real-life travelling tends to be. And just like real-life travelling is nicer than going nowhere, playing Pilot Brothers is certainly more fun than not playing it. But, as always, your mileage may vary.

The door is locked.The door is locked.



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