STAFF REVIEW of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood (Xbox 360 Arcade)

Monday, June 2, 2014.
by Adam Dileva

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Box art I’m an only child without any siblings, but I’m sure if I did, I would too at times call brotherhood a curse. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a sequel to the 2010 release of Max and the Magic Marker and is at its core a 2.5D sidescrolling platforming game. We’ve seen plenty of platforming games done before, but what makes Max stand out among the rest is its interesting twist on the puzzle elements with his magic marker. It’s an interesting mechanic but with a lot of trial and error and stubborn controls, most of the time you’ll become frustrated rather than enjoying your time with Max.

Max returns home from school one day only to find his younger brother in his room smashing his toys together and ruining them. Instantly annoyed, Max logs onto to search for a spell to get rid of his brother Felix. A spell is found and Max reads the spell aloud, but once he does so a shadowy portal opens in his room and a giant claw reaches through, grabbing Felix and pulling him within. Max instantly regrets his decision and realizes the magnitude of the situation if his parents found out, so he follows Felix into the portal and is whisked away to another world completely.

As Max makes it through the portal into a bright and colorful new world, he sees Felix being taken away by a monstrous creature in the far distance. Here begins Max’s journey to save his brother and you quickly learn who’s behind the kidnapping and whom is going to help you along the way. As for a plot, there’s really not much more to it than that, as saving your brother is Max’s main goal and of course Max will face many trials and challenges along the way. With Max’s adventure isn’t terribly long anyways, you won’t become all too invested in the story but more so for the gameplay.

As Max’s journey begins, he has no weapons or abilities and simply needs to jump from place to place to get to where he wants to go. As he scales a massive tree but jumping from branch to branch he meets an old woman who informs him of who kidnapped Felix and that she will help him on his journey, though in a very peculiar way. As Max carries no weapons, he only has his empty marker from school in his bag, so the old lady puts her soul into the marker itself so that she can guide him along the way and help him in ways Max never knew possible. Max will still have to traverse the landscape by jumping and climbing, but once he has control of his magic marker, things change quite drastically.

As max progresses closer to finding his brother Felix, there will be specifically colored nodes on the landscape that allows Max to use his magic marker in a variety of ways to progress closer to saving his sibling. The game introduces these colored nodes at a decent pace and each one will allow Max to use the marker to extract special powers for each node. Holding the Right Trigger will take out the magic marker will have Max stand still and control it with the Right Stick. Not being able to move while controlling the marker usually isn’t a hassle, but there are times where Max is being chased or only has a few moments to draw what he needs before he is attacked.

Each new marker ability is slowly introduced, so that you become acclimated to each one and learn how to use them properly. An orange node will allow Max to use his marker to raise a pillar of earth to use as a platform or as a makeshift elevator to each higher ground. Dark green allows Max to create a tree branch to use as a platform, ladder, or even cut it off with the marker so he can push and pull it elsewhere to use. Light green nodes allow max to create vines which most of the time are used as a rope but can also tie and attach to the earth pillars or tree branches Max creates as well. Max can eventually also make water streams that allows Max to use them like a water slide, or to move objects in its path. Lastly, there’s also a node later in the game that can be used to shoot projectiles at enemies and obstacles based on the angle you draw from the node to your target.

Early on the puzzles are quite easy and it’s usually a matter of which order do use your marker, but in the latter half of the game it does becomes quite challenging at times as you’ll have to not only figure out which order of markers to use, but drawing them perfectly in time while either being chased to objects thrown at you. This is where a lot of the frustration starts to set in, as the drawing mechanics at times needs to be just perfect or else you’ll have to restart the whole puzzle process over again. If you don’t have a high tolerance for multiple deaths and restarting same sections repeatedly, you will become quite frustrated with the inaccurate marker controls and floaty jumping.

There are a bunch of extras that are hidden within the levels that add some extra time to the game if you want to find them all or are a completionist, but trying to find these are will be quite challenging, as collecting all of the world’s Evil Eyes are usually the most tricky puzzles to solve in each of the levels. That being said, like any good puzzle game, you get that great sense of accomplishment once you do figure out the puzzle you’ve been stumped on for the past fifteen minutes by dying and retying over and over.

The world Max is stuck in looks gorgeous and each individual world you’re trying to figure your way out of feels very distinct. The environment is detailed and the lighting in certain areas adds some great glows that makes it feel almost like a Pixar short at times. While Max: The Curse of Brotherhood doesn’t look as sharp or as pretty on Xbox 360 compared to the Xbox One version, it’s the same game at its core and if you’re a puzzle game fan and not upgraded to the One yet, help Max save his brother Felix now that you’re aware of its few shortcomings.

Overall: 7.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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