Posted by Travis Bruno on Dec 27, 2013

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review

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Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
Developer: Press Play
Publisher: Microsoft
Platform: Xbox 360, Xbox One (Reviewed)
Install Size: 2.98 GB
Release Date: December 20, 2013
Price: $15.00

Overview
The puzzle platformer has become a staple genre in the video game industry and with the jump to the next generation of console, many of the past tried and true platformers faded away with only a few left standing. Thus with Max: The Curse of Brotherhood being the first platformer available for the Xbox One, many people are curious about whether or not the title is worth their time. As such, is Press Play’s first Xbox title worth jumping on?

Story
One day our protagonist named Max comes home to see that his little brother, Felix, is doing exactly what most little brothers do, being a nuisance. Frustrated that he has to deal with his sibling all of the time, Max looks up a way to make him disappear on the computer. When he stumbles across an innocent enough sounding bit of text, a magical portal suddenly appears in his room and a giant monstrous hand reaches through and drags Felix away.

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Max jumps through the portal in an effort to chase down the creature who has taken his brother and after meeting with an old women who not only explains that the ruler of this world, Mustachio, is planning on taking his brother’s body, but also gives his marker the ability to interact with the environment in magical ways, Max sets off to save his brother.

The story really doesn’t go anywhere else from here, as it sets Max along his way to save his brother with a clear villain in sight. Along the way Max comes across a number of areas that provide his marker with new abilities but for the most part the story is pretty standard fair outside of a bit of comedy here and there. It is also worth noting that despite both gameplay and protagonist similarities between this game and Press Play’s first title, Max and the Magic Marker, Curse of Brotherhood is presented as a standalone title with no reference to the prior game.

Gameplay
As with any good puzzle platformer, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood pits Max against a number of objects that he must get around or over, with plenty of pitfalls, traps or monsters ready to kill him if he fails to make a jump properly. Max only has a few basic skills on his own, as he can only jump so far, has very minimal ledge reaching abilities and falling from a certain height will kill him. Only with the help of his now magical marker will he be able to make it through the dangerous world.

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With the marker, Max can interact with his environment at specific points in the world where energy is glowing. To start with, the only thing Max can do is pull pillars of earth out of the ground to use to reach ledges or avoid danger, but as the game progresses players gain the ability to summon branches, vines, streams of water, and even fire out of these portals. Unfortunately it isn’t up to the player as to what will be summoned from any portal, as the game limits player creativity by restricting the energy types by color.

Anyways, creating these objects is simple as the player needs to only hold the trigger to bring forth the marker and then draw an object out of a glowing area. Objects such as pillars can only be mildly altered in direction while branches and other objects can be drawn in specific shapes to best fit the specific puzzle. As for the puzzles themselves, they start out very simple and grow more complex every time that Max’s marker gains a new ability.

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As more powers are unlocked, players will need to combine them in various ways, such as snapping off branches and using them in conjunction with earth pillars, or attaching vines to branches and swinging along them. The problem is that although the game isn’t terribly long, the puzzles tend to become rather tedious. Again this is due to the fact that players really can’t choose their own way to solve most of the obstacles in the game.

While there are a couple of ways to bend the rules, almost every puzzle needs to be solved through an exact pattern with each element type placed exactly right or else the whole thing might fall apart and need to be redrawn. This is a major issue as already drawn objects cannot be extended and can only be destroyed and redrawn, causing plenty of annoying moments of trial and error made even worse when the game’s iffy physics affect objects.

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As mentioned earlier, since objects have to be drawn incredibly accurately or need to be erased to start over, there are some minor issues with the drawing accuracy. The game makes no use of the Kinect or any SmartGlass options and because of this; there are times that the in-game marker will feel incredibly clunky for puzzles that require some finesse.

When the game isn’t throwing numerous complicated puzzles at the player there are some great action packed moments where Max is on the run from either a monster or something else and these sequences provide some of the best moments in the game, usually followed by a game clip automatically being recorded. These moments involve Max sliding down hills, swinging through ropes, raising pillars in slow motion, and more which make these moments really shine.

Visuals & Audio
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood looks rather amazing on the Xbox One as the world feels very lively with numerous colors at work and lush environments to travel through. The cutscenes and anything with Max himself look like they were taken right out of a Pixar animation. That being said, while there is a decent amount of variety in the enemies that you will need to avoid or run away from, some of them feel half-finished in appearance.

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As far as the soundtrack is concerned, the game sports some decent background music that works well for certain areas but tends to be forgetful in others and while there is voice work for the title, most of it comes from Max’s one-liners which seem fitting for a child his age.

Overall
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood brings a nice little gimmick with it in the form of drawing but sadly that isn’t enough to help make the game shine over its shortcomings. Thanks to the developers limiting players when it comes to solving puzzles and some iffy controls and physics, the game thrives on tedious repetition and forcing the player to try and fail again and again with little incentive. There are a few minor collectables to gather, which offer extra challenge, but the game only excels at looking great, offering some interesting gameplay mechanics, and occasionally providing a satisfying solution to a puzzle after many failed attempts at completing it.

6-5-capsules-out-of-10
Capsule Computers review guidelines can be found here.

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