Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
I miss old-school platformers, and it’s as though they are becoming increasingly rare in today’s gaming industry. Perhaps people feel as though kids would rather play Minecraft or Call of Duty instead of classic platforming gameplay. Whatever the case, I’m thankful that ‘Max: The Curse of Brotherhood’ has come along, and is able to be enjoyed by kids and adults alike with its ambitious mix of classic and non-traditional platforming gameplay.
Gamers may recognise Max from his previous game, Max and the Magic Marker, which featured similar gameplay, but a completely different visual style. Instead of a direct sequel to the puzzle cult-hit, Max’s developer Press Play chose to completely reinvent Max from the ground up, while retaining the game’s protagonist and his handy marker. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is certainly a huge leap forward compared to Max’s first game, and the modern graphics and cinematic scenes are fairly impressive considering Max and the Magic Marker was a Wiiware and smart phone game (later ported to PC and Mac).
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood (as you may have guessed) stars Max, a young boy who is constantly annoyed by his little brother. Max comes home to find his little brother playing with his toys and decides he’s had enough. He looks up a spell on the internet, and (not knowing it would work) banishes his brother to another realm. Max leaps inside the same portal his brother was dragged through and begins his adventure to save his brother. Along the way he’ll encounter an old mystic woman, and a very Gargamel-like bad guy, who is now holding Max’s brother captive.
Gameplay-wise, Max begins just like any other platform/puzzle game, with Max moving from left to right on a strictly-horizontal plane. He can run, jump and climb but cannot attack the various monsters that inhabit the strange realm he has been transported to. Early in the game, Max meets an old mystic woman, who bestows her magical powers onto the only posession Max has managed to bring with him, a marker. The cutscenes are are actually quite charming and executed quiet well. In fact, they feel as though they belong in a Dreamworks animated movie. There isn’t much in the way of character development, or an actual story, but Max:TCoB has entertaining little scenes that don’t distract from the gameplay too much.
So what is the magic marker? And how does Max wield it?
Once the marker becomes magic, Max is able to use it to solve a variety of different puzzles. Early in the game, these puzzles usually involve getting across large gaps or other hard-to-reach places, but there are times when Max: TCoB can test even a seasoned puzzle game enthusiast. For the most part, the difficulty is perfect throughout the game. Puzzles begin rather simply but can become quite advanced.
The marker mechanics usually work pretty well for the most part, but there are definitely times where the marker doesn’t behave the way you want it to, even when you’re sure you’ve done the right thing. One frustrating occurence is when the game has an action sequence that involves using the magic marker suddenly. Very rarely will these go the way you want them to the first time. One sequence took me four or five times to get the hang of, despite the fact I just did the same thing multiple times previously in the level (although I wasn’t falling down a cliff previously). Despite the odd problem with the marker itself, the gameplay in Max works pretty well, though it can become a little repetitive.
- Accessible family-friendly fun
- Puzzles provide a decent challenge without frustration
- Occasional control frustration
- Slightly repetitive
When it boils down to it, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a well-developed and fun puzzle/platformer, reminiscient of games such as Heart of Darkness and Another World. I only wish that its gameplay was tidier and its story was a little more fleshed out, as the franchise is brimming with potential.