Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a puzzle-platformer that was originally released back in 2013 and focuses on Max, a young boy, who accidentally gets his brother Felix kidnapped through a magical portal. Fearing reprisal from his parents, Max sets off on a journey to rescue his younger sibling.
Returning home from an arduous day at school, Max finds his brother Felix causing havoc in his room. Quickly jumping on the popular search engine Giggle, Max researches “How to make your brother disappear” and locates a legitimate looking spell which causes a portal to open and Felix to be swiped by a rather large and furry hand. From here the player is immediately thrown into the action and forced to learn on the run – quite literally.
The opening sequence to Max: The Curse of Brotherhood feels very Pixar in animation style. The movements are nice and fluid, bright as well as pretty detailed. It’s a theme that runs through the entirety of the game The devs have done a great job in polishing the game to make it look great. The game is presented as a 2.5D platformer with plenty of detail; though sometimes it may take a few seconds to pop into focus, rendering a blurry backdrop for a few moments.
I particularly liked some of the animations which really brought Max to life; an example of this can be found in the game’s opening chase scene where Max is running from the monster that kidnapped his brother, Felix. While racing full pelt Max would often lose his footing causing him to fall to the floor, scrambling on all fours to get back on his feet.
In addition to the great animations and beautiful looking backdrops is the voice acting. It’s clear that the team have given it their all and injected their passion into their roles; again bringing the characters to life and giving them more of a personality. When a game looks great there’s nothing more off-putting than wooden vocals. Something that Max: The Curse of Brotherhood thankfully doesn’t suffer from.
The game uses the time and tested chapter and worlds formula (like the original Mario Bros.), dividing the game up into a number of small chunks that the player can tackle head-on or return to at a later date to try and 100% the level. Early on Max meets a magical being who infuses himself with Max’s Magic Marker giving Max the ability to draw and manipulate terrain wherever a shining yellow circle can be seen (more colours unlock as you progress through the game). From streams of water to ropes to pillars of Earth, the game uses these to weave intricate puzzles into the platformer style.
I initially found this mechanic to be a little awkward to control. By holding down the RZ button the Magic Marker unclips itself from Max’s belt and grows to around 10 times its original size. Floating on the screen you can use the Right Analogue stick to control its movements and select the appropriate areas to use its magic. While I appreciate this game was originally conceived for consoles, it’s nice to know that the dev team have taken the time to accommodate the Switch’s touchscreen. While playing in the console’s handheld mode you are able to take control of the Magic Marker using your finger – which is much easier.
As stated earlier, players can only manipulate the terrain in specific areas; I felt this offered a certain level of hand-holding and may have benefited from allowing the player to interact with their surroundings at will. Personally, I feel this would have added to the challenge for the game as well as offering a bit more freedom – that’s not to say the current method doesn’t work well and there were a few times I found myself scratching my head trying to work out some of the puzzels. The difficulty curve is fairly gentle and I never found myself stuck for too long but there were definitely a number of deaths involved; be it from a miss-timed rope swing to Max being devoured by a ceiling dwelling enemy.
In conclusion, I can honestly say that Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a decent platformer. The puzzles, while not overly challenging, offer a nice pace of gameplay and each area offers a new and unique challenge. The Magic Marker can feel a little awkward to use at first but you soon get used to it, if like me and you enjoy playing the Switch in handheld mode, this ceases to become an issue with the touchscreen. If Max has taught me anything, however, its that I’ll stick to offering my brother to the Goblin King rather than relying on questionable magic spells from the internet.