Those who grew up playing Nintendo with their siblings should brace themselves for some emotional catharsis in the next few minutes. Player Two is a nostalgic and thoughtful animated short about two siblings, Luke and Ben, and the video games that connect them, specifically Nintendo titles like The Legend Of Zelda. The film, which runs under four minutes with credits, is the creation of filmmaker Zachary Antell, who previously schooled viewers on the similarities between Star Wars: The Force Awakens and A New Hope. This movie, presented in a style that looks hand-painted, is closer to home. A lot closer, actually, like in the living room. The narrator explains what it’s like to be a younger sibling who is indoctrinated into the world of video games by a knowledgeable older brother. “When you’re born second, you’re put into someone else’s world,” he explains. “You follow them. You’re player two.” But this is not a movie about being second best to a domineering older brother. Instead, this is a movie about the profound bonding that occurs between siblings over hours of marathon Zelda and Mario sessions.
Just as Andy had to go off to college and leave his toys behind him in Toy Story 3, so must the older brother eventually leave the living room to pursue his own path in this movie. But the connections between the brothers persist. “The worlds you explored will always be there, waiting,” says the narrator, as the animated protagonist stares at a cardboard box filled with controllers. Besides the semi-abstract look of the animation, one interesting effect in Player Two is its use of the aspect ratio. The video appears to be matted and framed in a letterbox, but characters and spaceships from the various Nintendo games are able to breach that perimeter. It’s a visual reminder of how games allow players to explore worlds beyond the confines of their own isolated homes. Thematically, Player Two bears some resemblance to the autobiographical animation of Malcolm Rizzuto. Antell tells The A.V. Club that “Malcolm and I work close together, and my piece was definitely influenced by him.” Judging from this movie, Antell’s childhood seems to be markedly less chaotic than Rizzuto’s, if no less memorable.