(505 Games for XBLA)
By Mike Delano
The main hook for Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is its novel gameplay mechanic; the two thumb sticks on the controller individually manipulate each of the two main characters, the titular brothers. In this age of twin stick shooters, it’s crazy that no one has thought of this concept before (at least that I can think of), but it works great. Admittedly, there will be plenty of walking into walls or walking in the wrong direction at first as you try to direct the movement of the two brothers in unison, but that awkwardness actually makes sense in the context of the game. You’re not controlling the master ninjas or Spec Ops soldiers that you’re used to — these are two teen boys thrust into an adventure to find medicine for their ailing father, so they need to rely on each other to succeed. The game finds plenty of interesting ways to make them work together, from shifting their weight to steer a hang glider to tethering them with a rope so they can alternate swinging to out-of-reach locations. The soft, colorful design brings a fairy tale quality to the gorgeous forests and cliffs that the brothers traverse, and carefully placed benches (that’s gotta be a nod to Ico, right?) even encourage you to take a break and admire the spectacular vistas. Brothers would be easy to recommend even without any narrative weight, but it actually has that too, with a sparse, affecting story told with remarkable subtlety — a refreshing throwback to when games required some imagination not just from talented developers, but from the player as well, and the experiences were enhanced by that give and take.