Back in 2009, Press Play Studios released a game called Max and the Magic Marker, a vibrant action/adventure that allowed children’s imaginations to run wild. Shortly after, the studio was purchased by Microsoft, and since then they’ve been hard at work on another outing for Max. Skipping the Xbox 360, the team chose to use the added power of Xbox One to help Max through The Curse of Brotherhood. Was it worth the wait?
The game starts with Max coming home from school, only to find his pesky little brother playing with his toys. This annoys Max, so he starts to surf the web for a curse to get rid of his brother. Just as he finds something, all of a sudden a wormhole rips apart the space time continuum and manifests in their bedroom. The wormhole sucks Max’s brother into another dimension, and starts to close. It seems Max is about to get his wish, except guilt overwhelms him and he realises a world without his brother is one he doesn’t really want to live in. Instinctively, he dives in right after him.
This dramatic start to the game excited me and right away, knowing that this journey is going to be great. Unfortunately, that’s a different story. You see, the game mostly plays great but pretty soon, things become frustrating.
Max: the curse of brotherhood is a platformer, but at its core it’s also a puzzle/adventure game. To be honest, puzzles and me don’t always mix. I spent more time using my brain, figuring out solutions, than I did trying to figure out how to control the game.
Once through the wormhole, Max makes his way through an open desert and finds out that his brother Felix has been caught by a giant troll. Just as Max catches up to the over-sized hunk, his brother is then scooped up by a featherless bird and carried out of sight. Felix is taken away to Mustacho’s castle, the game’s bad guy, and this is where Max must go to rescue his brother and escape this freakish dimension.
Max: Curse of Brotherhood is a re-imagining of the original game. In Magic Marker, Max uses a magic marker to draw objects in the world. In this game, however, the marker pen is actually Max’s only weapon.
Using the marker, Max can raise the ground beneath him, as well as erase and even cut ropes and vines. Sure, all of this sounds great but there are problems. For instance, when sliding down a long slope you will need to bring out the marker with the right trigger, then use this to either draw a vine for you to swing onto, or draw a branch to jump on. Using the marker while moving actually slows Max’s movement speed down, but this can leave Max vulnerable and make it easier for enemies to catch him. It can also place Max in a precarious position, making it easy for him to fall off the edge of a cliff and not grasp a vine in time.
The marker is colour coded for each ability; for instance, when raising the ground, the marker will turn an orange colour. However, if you were to erase something, the market will turn white. Unfortunately, the marker can only draw two objects at one time: if you draw one earth pillar then draw another, but suddenly realise a particular puzzle requires three, the original earth pillar will be erased automatically.
The game world certainly looks beautiful, thanks to the power of the Unity engine, but the controls unfortunately let the game down. Max: Curse of Brotherhood takes about 7 hours to complete, but it actually took me around 14 hours as I died so many times and had to revert back to the nearest checkpoint. This also meant I’d have to repeat several puzzles.
Press Play games have not just reimagined the predecessor, but also added a big twist to the platform formula. However as a result it feels like this has instead created player frustration as opposed to adding to the overall gameplay. Still, even though this game was frustrating for me, I did enjoy it at the same time. There’s still a lot to like here.
I don’t necessarily see many benefits for this game being exclusive to Xbox One, and I actually feel like Press Play should have produced the game for the Wii U. The Wii U’s second screen, touch element would have really benefitted from the whole experience, whereas Kinect isn’t used for anything.
With likes of Braid, Limbo, and Journey out there, Max: Curse of Brotherhood unfortunately doesn’t compare to these great Indie titles, which is a real shame. Microsoft and Press Play studios have made a relatively decent end-product and even made a good case for changing the play of platformers, but unfortunately the curses outweigh the good in this outing.