Press Play and Microsoft Studios has released a brand new platformer for the PC, named Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. Max: The Curse of the Brotherhood ends up being a bright and shiny version of Limbo, with a neutered story line and a frustrating game play gimmick that doesn’t quite reach the mark during the game. What we end up with at the end of the day is a seven hour long stroll through some beautiful environments, but never really get the satisfaction from a good story nor great game play.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood begins with Max coming home from school to find his kid brother in Max’s room, playing with Max’s toys. Max decides to search the Internet using “Giggle” for a spell that would rid him of the perceived nuisance that his his brother. Max conjures a portal to another world, where a huge hand reaches through and grabs Max’s little brother, taking him away. Immediately feeling remorse for conjuring the portal, Max jumps through to save his brother. Max chases down the huge monster that has his brother, but is unable to catch up nor stop the creature. Max then finds an old woman, who teaches Max to use a magic marker to take control of his environments, in order to both help his brother and to stop the villain from conquering this world.
The story for Max: The Curse of Brotherhood begins very Disney-esque, in fact reminds me very much of the Jim Henson movie, “Labyrinth”. I had such high hopes for a great little story about a boy who discovers the true love of brotherhood and learns to accept his younger sibling as a brother and not as a nuisance. However, the story never develops. Once the game begins, it feels like the story and Max’s progress as a character are just forgotten. Even the story about the world you are in and the main villain, Mustacho, becomes secondary to the game play. I really feel that the developers missed the mark here in making Max a more interesting character. They had all the elements right at the beginning, then just forgot about everything that made the first hour special.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is essentially a 2.5 dimension platformer with a magic marker gimmick thrown in to make it feel different. The platforming controls feel tight and well done, Max controls very well with both a standard controller and a mouse/keyboard. The puzzles you encounter are not difficult to figure out, you usually just need a moment or two to see what the game developers want you to do. If the developers had stopped there and focused more on the story line, I feel that Max: Curse of Brotherhood would have been a much better game, but they had to introduce the magic marker.
What makes Max: The Curse of Brotherhood different from, let’s say, Limbo is the magic marker game play mechanic. Once you meet the old woman, you gain the power to use your marker to draw certain items or affect the environment around you, in order to solve the platforming puzzles. It’s a cute idea, in theory, but in practice becomes a frustrating event that really just brings the entire game down. The marker is hard to control with the mouse, in both direction and in power. You will find yourself slowing down to use the marker in a much more precise manner. Later in the game, however, you do not have that extra time and must use the marker precisely with little or no margin for error.
The game developers do a great job in introducing the new marker powers as you get them in the game. Each level helps teach you everything you need to know about that power, but the mechanic just falls apart and feels clunky at the end. I really enjoyed the mechanic in the beginning but it soon began to wear on my as the game progressed and many of my deaths were attributed to the marker not going where I needed it to go.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood has a great look to it, reminding me of a colorful version of Limbo. The world that Max encounters is nothing short of breath taking visually, and is full of dangerous and nasty creatures that will kill Max in a hear beat. The design is made to give the player that sense of security by using the bright and colorful visuals, but the game is truly darker than that and Max will face horrific ends if you are not careful. The visual aesthetic of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is truly the gem of this game.
The audio aesthetic is well done, as well. Each character is voice acted well, and the acting fits the feel of the game. Again, my biggest issue is that the story does not give these actors enough plot to bring these characters truly to life, or to have them grow during the game. This is the most evident in Max and his little brother, who I feel the developers really let down with how the story was handled.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a game that was full of promise and excitement in the beginning, but ends up not keeping these promises all the way through to the end. Cursed with a shoddy story line and a frustrating game play mechanic, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood could have been so much better then it came out to be. The game is still solid and worth the time and money if you are interested in it, but I feel other games on the market have just done this job better. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is available now on Steam.[easyreview title=”Product Review Score” cat1title=”Overall Score (out of 5)” cat1detail=”” cat1rating=”3″ ]