There’s no single thing that makes Brothers great. It’s not the setting (fantastic!), the story (classic!), or the soundtrack (sweeping!) All of these things, were they just put together, would be little more than a pale shadow of PS2-era classic Ico. Instead, Brothers manages to be more than just the sum of its parts.
What makes Brothers great is the deceptively simple control scheme. The left stick and trigger control the brown haired older brother, the right stick and trigger the blonde mopped younger. It starts off easily enough, with the smaller brother slipping through gates to unlock doors while the elder reaches switches just out of reach. Puzzles increase in complexity as the game goes on, but the controls do not, staying intuitive.
Controlling the older brother with the tried-and-true left stick feels effortless, a reflection of the kind of comfort with your body that only comes with age. The younger brother instead darts around, stumbling from place to place in a pale pantomime of his partner. It feels maddening at first, but you forge ahead.
It’s what having a younger sibling feels like. You’re perpetually the left stick, always sure and true, the fumbling of youth long left behind. Playing the game, it’s hard to not always find yourself leading with the elder brother, the left stick, the comfortable and experienced. Even when separated, I tended toward auburn teen instead of the young boy who wasn’t quite comfortable in his skin.
Amazing things happen with these controls, things that dip into the spoiler-y end of the pool, but which you’ll immediately understand when they happen. It’s this seemless blending of tactile feel and emotional theme that elevates Brothers into the realm of greatness.