Max: The Curse of Brotherhood was once behind an ‘exclusive’ locked door with only Microsoft holding the Key. Microsoft bought the developers studio back in 2012 and then proceeded to close it and sell off its assets in 2016. This is always a terrible event; however, this time things turned out for the best! The team at Press Play formed a new studio called Lightbulb Games and were now free to offer their game on to other platforms. As a PS4 owner, I was incredibly happy when I heard about this as I’d always wanted to play the game but really couldn’t justify buying an Xbox to do so. So, did the game live up to my self-created hype? Let’s find out.
The game, from a distance, looks like your standard platformer with various enemies to overcome, simple puzzles and a nice ‘indie’ aspect to the graphics; however, once you actually start playing the game you begin to see that there is much more to it than meets the eye. The game thrives on its puzzles which you overcome by using your magic markers, which are not only ‘magic’ in name but also in nature! The gameplay is innovative with challenging puzzles that make you think, a story that will have you hooked and loads of variety in the environments, enemies and challenges which will keep you entertained for hours.
Max, our protagonist, starts out at home with his annoying younger brother when, in an almost ‘Jim Henson’s Labyrinth’ style, Max wishes his brother would disappear. Suddenly a portal appears from another world and without warning, a very hairy hand comes through and grabs his brother. Without thinking, Max immediately jumps through the portal after the giant beast, only stopping to grab his brothers spectacles on the way.
Once you gain control of Max, the game starts off as a standard platformer as you run and jump in order to escape from the clutches of the creature who stole your brother. This is a kind of non-tutorial tutorial as you learn all the various commands without being hand-held. However, you soon meet a mystical old woman who tells you that your brother has been captured by the evil Lord Mustacho, who is surprisingly the antagonist and sports a massive moustache.
After a brief puppet show (which is quite amusing), the old woman hastily asks you to place your weapon in her hand. However, the only item in your possession is a plain, boring ‘magic marker’ – she instantly takes this off you and transfers her soul within it, thus making it a true ‘Magic’ marker! This is where the compelling gameplay truly begins and the game starts to open up. With your new tool in hand and a destination in mind, you proceed on your adventure to save your brother.
The game looks like something out of a Disney Pixar movie with its cute character design, bright colours and detailed environments. The characters let it down a little as they aren’t very interesting as most of them you will only see for a few minutes and never again for the rest of the game. However, with that said – the game looks and plays beautifully so I’m willing to look past that. I have seen some other people comment on the quality of the graphics and the textures in use but you have to remember that this was an Xbox 360 game which was ported to the Xbox One and then to the PS4, so technically it’s a slightly remastered X360 game. Personally, I love the style they have gone for!
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood isn’t your usual platformer as you have a mechanic which I’ve not seen implemented into a platformer before, the ability to draw using different elemental powers in order to help you progress. Personally, I can see this being a lot easier and better adapted to a console with a touch screen such as the Vita or the Switch. However, it works great with the controller as the developers have clearly put a lot of time and effort into making it work perfectly with the lack of a touchscreen display.
You start off with the ability to draw Earth, this entails raising pillars in order to solve puzzles or even gain access to higher areas. Throughout the game, you will gain more abilities such as; grow branches, create vines, summon waterways which you can travel on, and even generate fireballs in order to kill enemies and destroy obstructions. All of these abilities are colour coordinated and easy to select and use. As you play, you will become accustomed to what each power does and how to use it to your advantage – but the game does sometimes like to throw a curveball.
The game really shines when it comes to the puzzles. As you progress through the game you will come across puzzles which require you to use multiple abilities at the same time in order to bypass them. For example, there are parts where you can draw a branch and then attach a vine to it, cut the vine and you have a make-shift rope to grab, climb or swing on. Another cool feature is the ability to draw a branch and shoot a fireball at it – it doesn’t set it on fire, it allows the fireball to be transported around and then used to destroy your target (I’m not quite sure how or why this works, but it’s cool that it does).
You are constantly trying new things and having to think about what to do next. Personally, my first run through also involved a lot of trial and error as all the puzzles are physics based so you can actually solve them by luck sometimes! I streamed the game live and played it from beginning to end in two sittings, which took me about 5-6 hours to complete, including the countless deaths I encountered. So I imagine, if you are aiming for the platinum then you can easily get about 8-10 hours of gameplay out of it as I missed a lot of collectables along the way. The game does have a chapter select for those out there who want to go back and find things they missed on their first playthrough.
One of the things I loved about the game is that you are always encountering something new and you learn new abilities right up until the end boss battle. Usually, I don’t like games like that as you don’t usually have enough time to use the new abilities; however, I believe this game does it perfectly as it gives you new mechanics to change things around so you never get bored whilst playing. I can imagine if you were spending 3-4 hours with only one new ability then you could get tired of it pretty quick, which is something this game doesn’t do.
Another thing which is great about this game and missing from a lot of other games is the requirement to think about the puzzles and actually concentrate on what you are doing. You may be running away from a massive creature whilst also hopping into the slo-mo mode so you can create platforms to jump on or vines to swing with. Or, you may have a drop right in front of you that leads to your death, so you have to draw a branch, attach a vine, cut the vine, swing on the vine and jump whilst drawing a branch to land on. The game can get pretty intense and manic, but it always remained 100% fun, which is the main thing!
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a great indie platformer which I’m glad had the chance to come to other platformers. It may not be the best looking game out there but it does shine with its artistic style, complex and thought-provoking puzzles and constantly-changing Magic Marker. If you are looking for a platformer that will not only last you a few hours but also provide a fair challenge in order to platinum then I can’t recommend this game enough.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
- Imaginative and thought-provoking puzzles
- Simple to pick up but hard to master, style
- Cute graphics and cut-scenes
- Interesting use of the magic marker
- Characters are a little dull
- End battle was to short and easy
- If you aren't interested in trophies then it may only last 5/6 hours