I was more than a little shocked to learn that this is not Max’s first rodeo. The Curse of Brotherhood is actually a follow-up to 2010’s Max and the Magic Marker. Needless to say this is my first time with the series. The concept involves a boy named Max, who just so happens to have a pretty magical marker that he uses to solve puzzles. There is no combat involved outside of the occasional struggle with the drawing mechanic. Xbox One owners looking for something new to tie them over are definitely in for a treat.
Max is tired of his little brother so he does what any normal older sibling would do. He tries to figure out a way to get rid of him. He discovers a spell online that is supposed to achieve just that, little does he know as he utters the words, that he is getting more than he bargained for. Max’s brother Felix is then swallowed up into a portal, and Max sets out to save him, thus beginning our journey.
While there isn’t much to the story outside of a villain with a sweet mustache, it is portrayed well. The voice acting isn’t bad, and I actually grew to like most of the characters. There is certainly very little in the way of plot points, and the conclusion was easy to decipher within minutes, but it helped move along the adventure.
The Curse of Brotherhood is a straight-up 2D platformer in a 3D world. Max moves left-to-right, solving puzzles along the way. His magic marker is the key mechanic, and it gains five different powers over the course of the journey. This works by holding down the trigger button, then using the analog stick to draw platforms, vines, branches, waterspouts and even fireballs to progress. It is an interesting dynamic, which changes up often enough to keep things interesting from beginning to end.
Even with as creative as the idea is, it is still limited. Max can only draw on pre-determined spots. He can however, manipulate most objects with direction. This led to most of my deaths in the game as well. It can be tricky drawing a vine that is straight enough to keep my momentum while falling in order to reach the other side of an area. Thankfully checkpoints are generous, and there is no penalty for dying.
I really enjoyed some of the more thought-provoking puzzles. Like where I would have to draw a branch in just the right shape, or perhaps attach a vine to a block in order to move it to another area or break open a wall. There are moments of brilliance, and often times I found myself perplexed at what was in front of me. Solving these puzzles deliver that “aha!” moment, as much as they made me feel stupid at times.
Everything flows smooth outside of some of the vine sections that I died at far too many times, until the end of the game. The final boss is one of the most frustrating segments in recent memory. I probably died 50 times until I managed to get it. Forcing in a true combat sequence in a game that wasn’t designed for any is frustrating.
There are plenty of items to collect to keep players coming back to levels, and they are broken down into sections, so going back is never a chore. The core adventure ran me around 5-6 hours, which was the perfect length for a game of this type.
On a visual level the game has a really appealing aesthetic. I really enjoyed that each level was unique, and the lighting looks great on the Xbox One. The cave level really stands out, as well as the lightning in the rain level. There are some hints of slowdown, most notably in the cut scenes. It was weird to see it stutter considering most titles on the machine have been buttery smooth so far.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a solid puzzle/platformer that was just what I needed right now. It was definitely a nice palette cleanser from some of the holiday shooting and action, plus it is only $15, which is a fantastic price for what you get. If you have an Xbox One and are looking for a novel title to tie you over, I definitely recommend giving Max a shot.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.