‘BROTHERS: A TALE OF TWO SONS’ (T)
Xbox Live Arcade
Like “Ico” and “Journey,” “Brothers” is one of those games with a strong emotional resonance, despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that the storytelling is very minimalist, forcing you to fill in many of the blanks with your own imagination. The titular siblings rarely speak, and when they do, they communicate in an un-subtitled, made-up language. Nevertheless, their quest is clear: they must retrieve a magical elixir to save their dying father. This endeavor will take them through quaint, Nordic-style towns, battlefields littered with the corpses of fallen giants and the ruins of ancient civilizations. This epic journey takes the form of a third-person platformer, in which you control both brothers simultaneously with a single controller. The left thumbstick and trigger control the older child, while the right controls the younger. It’s an innovative and challenging control scheme — one that makes you realize that your thumbs are capable of a bit of their own sibling rivalry.
Whenever you can keep the elder brother out front or to the left, the controls are intuitive, but certain puzzles require big brother’s superior strength on the right side of the screen, while his kid brother squeezes into small spaces on the left, and then things get tricky. One alternately fun and frustrating sequence has the siblings traversing a rock face while tethered to one another. So one brother serves as an anchor, while the other swings to the next outcropping of handholds. Then they switch. The game’s brief, three-hour length isn’t quite long enough to make this dynamic feel second nature. Fortunately, you’re only dealing with a single button per brother, which mitigates the amount of damage you can do when you forget which thumb is which. Story-wise you’ll never confuse the siblings. Subtle mannerisms differentiate the playful younger child from his more pragmatic brother, making these kids all the more endearing and the end of their quest that much more moving.
‘MARIO AND LUIGI: DREAM TEAM’ (E10+)
The latest role-playing game to feature Nintendo’s mustachioed mascot has fun with the oft-maligned Luigi’s perceived inferiority complex. While usually relegated to tagalong status, Luigi proves essential this time around, thanks to his odd ability to fall asleep at will. This allows Mario to enter his brother’s dreams, where the game’s primary antagonist dwells. Mario is as effective in turn-based battles as he was in “Superstar Saga,” but it’s Luigi’s superpowered subconscious that steals the show this time.
‘CLOUDBERRY KINGDOM’ (T)
Xbox Live Arcade
A princess has been kidnapped, and it’s up to a lone hero to travel from left to right across floating platforms and over deadly hazards to rescue her. It’s a premise as old as the “Super Mario Bros.” franchise, but rarely has it been so punishing. The randomly generated levels of this fiendishly difficult sidescroller offer little margin for error. By the later levels, the screen is a nearly incomprehensible mess of swinging spikes, swirling flames and insta-kill laser beams, meant to appeal to only the most masochistic of die-hard precision-platformer fans. CV