Max: The Curse of Brotherhood had it’s full retail release for Switch earlier this year and we we’re lucky enough to get a copy to review! For those who do not know the story of young Max, a little boy with a massive spirit, the premise is this; Max, frustrated at his little brother, searches for a way to get rid of him and accidentally opens a portal to another world which Felix, his little brother, gets stolen through! Cue our little flame haired hero jumping in after him and thus our adventure begins!
The game at it’s core is a physics based puzzle/ platformer set in a 2.5D landscape and incorporates both a free and cinematic camera. The levels take the player through several different “worlds” including dusty deserts, boggy swamps and ancient temples armed with only your wits and Max’s ‘Magic Marker’. Fans of the series will recognize the ‘Magic Marker’ from Press Plays earlier “Max and the Magic Marker”. The ‘Magic Marker’ we learn early on inhabits the soul of a rather odd old woman we meet early on BUT she helps us by allowing us to manipulate the environment around us with the power of nature! We can summon grand pillars of dirt, tree branches to climb and snake-like vines to swing on (i doubt any one who played this managed to swing on them vines WITHOUT making the Tarzan noise)
The environments are a real treat for the eyes and really reflect the design of the game. If this were an animated feature it would have been one of the best looking ones that year! Max’s art style heavily channels a Pixar-esque vibe within this vibrant and rich world, which when paired with the genuinely well thought out sound design delivers a really strong visual package.
While the puzzles can be tricky, the game’s graphics and subject matter are suitable for adults and kids alike, so I asked my 6 year old step-son Jackson to have a good play and to let me know his thoughts.. ” I really like the game the story is good and I have a brother like the person in the game and I would also rescue him if he was taken away. It looks like a real cartoon. The puzzles were hard because I am only 6 and I couldn’t get the pen to work with the touch screen but it was easier when using the buttons.” Jax had some trouble with the jumps in places and when I asked him if it was bothering him he replied “He is only a little kid so he can’t jump far” Jax’s normal attention span lasts for about 5 minutes unless he is playing Roblox BUT he wanted to keep playing Max and he really enjoyed the experience.
Now all that being said, let’s talk the puzzles, because some of these are on the same rage-inducing level as the greats (Portal, limbo etc). However, this is not always the crafting of an evil mastermind but is sometimes due to poor positioning and very fiddly solutions! One of the more charming aspects of the puzzles is how much SENSE they make (after you’ve died a bunch first). Once you figure it out, everything acts as it should.
One example is a particularly tricky puzzle that had me frustrated for a solid 10-15 minutes. Max was faced with a pit filled with lava. To cross the pit I would have to rest a branch on a column of rock, and then jump on the precariously balanced branch without it falling off. The branch repeatedly failed to support my weight when I jumped on it, until I realised that there was a little overhang on the right hand side of the cliff above me. By placing the other end of the branch under the overhang, Max could jump on the branch and the overhang stopped it tipping off. It’s these details that make it impossible to argue that hours and hours haven’t been spent focusing on creating an almost realistic physics experience.
My major issue with the puzzles is a somewhat personal one, suffering from colour blindness was the reason for my killing of Max on more then one occasion! The incredible similarities between A) the colours of the surroundings to the swirly nature power outlets and B) The similarity between the “power” colours themselves (orange, yellow, green) led to many failed puzzle attempts and it is something I feel could be relatively easily avoided by making those outlets stand out a bit more, but having invited others to play it was a common complaint amongst them all regardless of eye sight and age. The difficulty of differentiating the ‘power outlets’ and the nature surrounding it leads to some incredibly frustrating and easily avoidable deaths, which only serves to add to the rage levels! Include to that mix trying to use the nature powers WHILST running through the ever changing environment away from the big bad guy and you enter into some seriously fiddly territory! Though this seems like a minor comment in the grand scheme of things when this becomes the reason behind the majority of the deaths it really starts to grate on the player! One pit fall for (almost) all platformers is that they aren’t perfect, even the really big titles like Crash Bandicoot or Mario all pushing the player to the limit in a way that often results in shaky and staggered play throughs and not smooth flawless runs, leaving the player with a watered down, less explosive play through!
Would I recommend Max: The Curse of Brotherhood? Absolutely! Just be prepared for some serious raging!