Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a new adventure from the development team over at Press Play. The previous entry in the series was Max and the Magic Marker, but I never had a chance to play that title. Curse of the Brotherhood is a rather enjoyable adventure that, at times, is plagued by controlling issues and some very frustrating puzzle segments.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood follows the story of Max and his quest to rescue his brother, Felix, from the evil Mustacho. Max is the reason Felix is captured in the first place as he places a curse on his brother that gets him sent to another dimension, all for breaking one of his toy cars. The story throughout the game is pretty minimal and playing through at a normal pace can have it finished in between five and six hours. This estimate depends on how quickly you finish the puzzles, as it could easily be padded out a while longer. Achievement hunters can spend their time collecting the fragments of a broken amulet and taking care of Mustacho’s evil eyes. Curse of the Brotherhood is also the first XBLA game to include 1000 achievement points.
The gameplay found in Max:The Curse of Brotherhood is both the game’s best and worst aspect. On one side, the game is a standard platformer, on the other is a unique element found through Max’s magic marker. The marker is used to solve the puzzles throughout the game and takes advantage of five elemental powers that are unlocked as you progress through the game, with the puzzles becoming more complex as you go. The first three powers consist of the ability to raise certain parts of the ground to get to higher places as well as raise objects, and the second and third allows you to create branches and vines to use as platforms to swing Max and other objects around. Physics play a moderate role in how some of the puzzles are solved, especially with the vine swinging sections. Along with the first two powers you’ll also come across water and fire powers. I won’t spoil exactly what they do, but the water power is especially cool to use and look at.
As you unlock more powers you will use them together for some pretty darn creative scenarios, but this is where the problems of the game come in as well. Using a controller for some of the more time constrained moments and where you need to be precise creates issues. It just feels that the mechanics of the game are begging for touch controls. When everything works, there can be some pretty great moments, but at some points the game can also be overly frustrating. The final boss, for instance, almost had me tearing my hair out. In the end I finally figured out what I was doing wrong, but at the time I was close to just walking away from the game all together. To put it simply, the controls work fine when you’re not in time constrained areas.
Along with the control issues, there are also a few game breaking glitches that require you to fully quit from the game and re-enter it. At one point my controller turned off and when I went to continue playing the game was unresponsive. At other times, the magic marker would disappear forcing a restart as well. While these issues were game breaking they did not occur often enough to bother me that much, but they should be noted in this review so the developers can patch the issues.
Max does not have any combat mechanics. Instead, enemies are dealt with by solving the puzzles within that particular segment; with the requirements varying from leading them into a cage, or setting a branch over a ravine only to get rid of it and send the enemies to their doom. Max can be vanquished in a single hit, which resets you to the last checkpoint, though this does not sting as much as it might as load times are minimal, if present at all.
Graphically Max:The Curse of Brotherhood is a very pretty game. The environments are well varied and quite detailed. Max will travel through deserts, dense forests, caves and more. I was actually quite surprised by the visuals that the Unity Engine put out. The creatures of the game on the other hand could use some work. The giant monster you meet early on in the game is easily the best looking creature, but apart from him, the majority of the creatures were very uninteresting. You may be surprised when you come upon some deadly firefly like creatures in the latter portion of the game to discover how they are little more than floating particles.
The soundtrack for the game is not all that special but gets the job done. I found listening to Max’s banter quite enjoyable for the most part as he is a little kid and is constantly making snarky remarks when he defeats an enemy using his wits. Overtime, he does get a little annoying, but again, it’s not really something that detracts from the game.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a great first addition to the Xbox One’s arcade library. Priced at $14.99, the game offers a very enjoyable adventure aside from a few overly challenging sections and control issues. The presentation does a good job of making the game feel like a light-hearted adventure akin to many similar platformers that can be found on rival platforms.