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Max: The Curse of Brotherhood (Xbox One) Review

 
Max-The-Curse-of-Brotherhood-game-logo
Max-The-Curse-of-Brotherhood-game-logo
Max-The-Curse-of-Brotherhood-game-logo

 
At A Glance...
 

Formats: Xbox One, Xbox 360
 
Genre:
 
Year:
 
Publisher:
 
Developer:
 
Final Score
6.5
6.5/ 10


User Rating
2 total ratings

 

We Liked?


  • Looks gorgeous environmentally
  • Clever use of some puzzles

Not So Much?


  • Marker control isn't suited to an analogue stick
  • Unforgiving trial and error portions & badly paced action elements
  • Characters and story not engaging enough
  • Few technical glitches and quirks


Final Fiendish Feelings?

With tumbleweed blowing across the Xbox One game store Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is one of the few choices you have right now. You’ll get your moneys worth from the game just don’t expect to finish it frustration free. Think the general platform-puzzle design of Limbo meets an IOS/Android touchscreen physics puzzler made by Nickelodeon/Disney and you’ve got the ballpark in your mind.

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Posted January 15, 2014 by

 
Final Fiendish Feelings?
 
 

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood drops into a neat little gap in the Xbox One release schedule. Many will still be deeply involved in their holiday gift whilst the early adopters will be looking for something new to play now they’ve drain what they can from the launch lineup.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a 2.5D side scrolling puzzle-platformer from the team behind the PC title Max & the Magic Marker. With Curse they expand on their initial ideas and bring the whole franchise over exclusively to Xbox, firstly in One then on 360 in the coming months.

As the game starts out Max is pretty fed up with his little brother’s antics so decides to read aloud a spell he discovers from making little brothers disappear. Max’s brother is snatched from the room and dragged into a strange world ruled over by the evil Mustachio. He’s hell bent on using Max’s little brother in a crazy experiment, that is, unless Max can rescue him first.

You’ll notice straight off that Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a stunningly well realised title. Fantastic lighting and colourful environments really make the game stand out. Characters are bright and colourful also with an almost Claymation quality to their looks and movements. The 2.5D environments are varied (desert, swap, laval pits, castles etc) and certain parts draw the camera back to reveal a stunning level of depth.

MAX Xbox One

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood takes what starts as a simple platformer and throws in a hefty amount of physics puzzling. Max soon meets an old witch that enchants his old marker pen. He can then use this magical marker on certain areas of the game world. Initially he can only manipulate columns of earth – so puzzles will be in the form of hard to reach areas requiring towers to be made to gain access. Later skills help mix this dynamic up though as Max gains the ability to shoot water jets, grow vines and branches, even create fireballs all in the service of solving the environmental puzzles before him.

These different abilities can be combined in varying ways also, for instance growing a branch from the “branch” portal and the growing a vine from the “vine” portal and attaching it to the branch. Slicing off the portal end of the vine will then allow the vine to dangle down from the branch forming a rope for swinging or climbing. Puzzle design can be quite ingenious at times and overcoming some of the more intricate and well managed areas can be super-satisfying.

Unfortunately many aspects, especially later in the game, end up being a combination of blind luck and “trial & error” gameplay. You’ll be thrown into a new area with danger all around, the thing you need to draw an article from is either obscured until far too late or the timing is just too tight to facilitate discovery then action. This leads to countless deaths that were well out of your control which breeds an ever increasing frustration.

It’s hard to warm to either the story or the characters in Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. Max is too weedy and obnoxious to become enamoured with and portrayed too much like a Saturday morning cartoon show to be a cool protagonist. With a flimsy story, un-engaging characters, a wildly wobbly difficulty curse and an ever increasing frustration level there may well be many people who never push through to the end of the game. Which is a shame as the orb based puzzles in the later stages are some of the best in the game.

Max3

The main story mode will most likely take you around 6 hours depending on your skill at puzzle solving and wrangling the right stick. There are parts of an old Amulet scattered throughout the chapters as well as lots of small eyeball like plants that work as Mustachio’s CCTV system – these are pulled out and act as another collectable. If you wanted to gather all of these then probably add another hour or two. Once completed there’s very little worth returning for outside of those collectibles.

There are a handful of other technical niggles that crop up along the way. The cutscenes are very jerky and glitchy – even though they look like they’re pre-rendered. There is also a strange “jerky” quality to the animation in the game that I presume is either intentional or some quirk of their implementation of the Unity engine. Either way I found it detracted from the look of the game. Animation also seems to take precedence over maneuverability which makes Max not the most precise or nimble of platforming heroes.

The final grumble must head to the control scheme though. You see all of the “drawing” actions that you do with your enlarged on-screen marker pen are controlled by the right analogue stick. This is more than agreeable for the earlier powers but when you’re trying to draw a tightly formed Z or S with your branch or water jet using the right analogue stick just becomes an obstacle. At times you’re fighting the control scheme as much as you’re solving the puzzles. Add to this that you need to sometimes do these intricate movements during chase or high-pressure moments and frustration ratchets up one more notch.

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Final Thoughts

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a good looking puzzle-platformer with some technical, pacing and control issues that just hold it back from being a real winner. Take this game and put it on the PS Vita and BOY would you have one hell of a game. Sticks for the platforming, touch screen for the marker drawing… a perfect console match.

At times repetitive, sometimes trial and error, game play that becomes more frustrating the more demand you place on the control scheme in the later stages. The saving grace is that the developer Press Play have been very generous with checkpoints meaning you lose very little progress from these frustrating deaths.

With tumbleweed blowing across the Xbox One game store Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is one of the few choices you have right now. You’ll get your moneys worth from the game just don’t expect to finish it frustration free. Think the general platform-puzzle design of Limbo meets an IOS/Android touchscreen physics puzzler made by Nickelodeon/Disney and you’ve got the ballpark in your mind.

So, in closing, a solid enough platformer that is hampered by a gimmick that isn’t quite pulled off on the platform of choice. When it’s working well though the game is highly enjoyable.


Zeth

 
Zeth is our EU ninja and Editor in Chief. He's been writing about video games since 2008 when he started on BrutalGamer. He's pretty old and has been a gamer since he played Space Invaders as a young boy in the 80's. His genre tastes lean towards platformers, point-and-click adventure, action-adventure and shooters but he'll turn his hand to anything.