Artifex Mundi are one of the best known publishers of hidden object games, and as such are a gateway to gaming for many. Whilst often looked down on as being too ‘casual’ by some in the community, hidden object games are an excellent starting point for non-gamers who may not have the manual dexterity or years of button familiarity to manage the big budget releases. They’re also really good at featuring female protagonists and focusing on simple narratives rather than the confusing attempts at cinematic storytelling that so often plague more celebrated genres. My Brother Rabbit has all of the polish and character you would expect, but also feels like a departure from the strict hidden object template.
Set in a surreal world that is based on the feverish dreams of a sick child, My Brother Rabbit has a colourful and distinctive look all of its own. Unlike the fantasy or gothic settings of so many titles in the genre, the quirky cartoon world here feels fresh and fun. Taking inspiration from the likes of Alice in Wonderland, the weird backgrounds and anthropomorphic animals are nicely designed and successfully set the scene for the collecting and puzzling to come. There is no dialogue here, with all narrative conveyed through surprisingly effective watercolour styled animations between each location. Obviously as a parent I am a sucker for emotional narratives about sick children, but I was struck by how My Brother Rabbit managed to handle the tragic aspects without feeling overly mawkish or sentimental. The lack of dialogue perhaps helped here since it let them avoid clichés.
Your character is an imaginary embodiment of the toy bunny held by the brother of the sick child. The vignettes between chapters establish that the young girl is beset by a mysterious illness and therefore exposed to a series of clinical environments and medical tests. These frightening and threatening environments are transposed into the surreal cartoon world of the game itself. Unlike many earlier hidden object games, however, that are clearly inspired by classic point and click adventures, My Brother Rabbit is Artifex Mundi’s take after static screen interactive titles like Samorost or Chuchel. This means that aimless wandering is cut out, but does limit a sense of exploration.
In order to make your way through the various locations and transport the plant that represents the poorly sister to the promised cure, you must click, prod, and push everything on the screen to solve a series of increasingly surreal environmental puzzles. A couple of these towards the end of the game were surprisingly challenging and required a keen eye for the clues scattered around the screens. There is some movement between linked screens but for the most part each area is distinct and self contained.
Within each area there are the usual hidden object staples of collecting objects and solving logic puzzles, but My Brother Rabbit also feels different from other titles in this regard. There are no cutaway screens where you must look for individual items from a list, but instead a certain number of particular items (such as beans, butterflies, or cogs) must be found across the area to open up a new part of the environment. This approach helps to avoid the common issues of transatlantic naming conventions that so often plague the genre and also cements the childlike feel of the whole package.
I found the emotional drive of My Brother Rabbit to be sensitively and powerfully handled. This was a particular surprise to me as I have been very critical of the ways in which games so rarely attempt to convey emotions other than anger and frustration (often more at the game than in the game to be honest). While not a groundbreaking title in any particular way, My Brother Rabbit is a welcome attempt to tell a more intimate and emotional story. The setting worked well in connecting the narrative to the surreal elements of the gameplay and it sits well with classic stories such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice books and The Wizard of Oz series in using the idea of a dream or coma world to work through the problems and challenges of the real world.
My Brother Rabbit is a great little hidden object adventure that tells an emotional story with style and sensitivity. Its world is a pleasure to explore and there is a nice balance between static screen exploration and logic puzzles. It is clear that Artifex Mundi are experts in their field, and this would be the perfect introduction to the genre or gaming more generally. It would certainly work to counteract the public perception that gaming is all guns and swearing teenagers. While clearly a simple game, it deserves to be played by more than the usual genre fans. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, its full of lovely touches and is a great example of a nice game. Here’s hoping that, like the creature in its title, My Brother Rabbit will multiply and more such heartwarming titles will hop onto the scene.
Version Tested: PS4
Also available on Xbox One, Switch, and PC