Max The Curse of Brotherhood: As We Play

As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time. All feedback on this concept is welcome.

Where did you spring from?

What a beautiful, unexpected surprise this turned out to be. Suddenly just popping up on the Xbox Store over the Christmas break, a refreshing new platformer to sink my teeth into. Or yet another one. Depending on your point of view.

So, generic story. Older Brother hates younger brother. Older Brother wishes the younger away. Wish comes true and younger get sucked into another dimension. Older brother regrets wishing him away and dives in the portal after him. Incoming weird and wonderful world and a quest to unite the two bickering siblings.

In terms of brotherly love, this fails to capture the genuine bond in A Tale of Two Sons released last year, but you get the gist.

The Curse of Brotherhood is a re-imagining of Max and the Magic Marker, but filled with new ideas, levels and story elements. It’s a gorgeous looking game that reminds me ever-so slightly of Heart of Darkness, a little known, big-budget platformer released many years back. From the dark cartooney style, to the aura of mystery, the game plays the atmosphere card perfectly from the very beginning.

Jump, jump, jump. What’s so special?

Just when this seems to fall into the category of every other platformer, the Magic Marker comes into play. Holding down RT, Max throws out a giant marker enthused with magical energy that can manipulate the environment in weird and wonderful ways. The common thing seems to be raising stumps out of the ground so far, but I’m sure there’ll be other uses.

One major thing that strikes me is the lack of Kinect support. Microsoft have made a big deal about boxing the peripheral with Xbox One and ensuring it is integral to the ongoing development of the platform. Max is a game that can clearly use the sensor in many ways. Instead, it chooses not to. Whether this was a development issue problem, or something else entirely, I don’t know, but the Magic Marker could benefit from the improved gestures and voice control. There’s nothing of the sort to be found here. It’s all reliant on the controller.

A very surprising omission, and a potentially concerning one so early on in the life of Xbox One.

The game is all about solving problems. For instance, you’ll have to create a smaller ledge so you can jump onto a higher one, then keep adjusting the height of both stumps until you reach your destination. Or, in another case, flip a box so you have additional leverage. These can also be used to outsmart enemies and a defense mechanism against their insta-kill shots.

The puzzles are never particularly taxing, of course, but it adds a refreshing mechanic to a familiar genre.

266395875

But hey, it looks good…

Curse of Brotherhood is quite special in 1080p, though the palette is a bit too rich and vibrant. The lighting should probably be dialled back a bit, though the game opens out in a desert, so it does make sense.

Unfortunately, the cut-scenes are terribly choppy and clunky while viewing, and this is a frustrating and surprising distraction from the good-intent set out by the gameplay action.

You only need to take one look at Max to realise it’s wrong to categorize the game as hard-indie. It’s far too cinematic and overbearing, seemingly keen to boast about a big budget to ever be considered subtle. It’s definitely the most glorious of all the digital releases currently available on Xbox One, but that’s certainly an aspect to its credit.

As Max progresses, his marker will become capable of other things, such as producing branches, as well as rising earth towers out of the ground. These branches can be hacked and then pushed into place to use for something else. Sadly, some of the physics while doing this are all over the place. I nudged a branch slightly and Max practically sailed through the ceiling. Seems a bit of balance is probably needed.

I generally find using the marker to be quite a chore, particularly during time-sensitive situations. It never feels seamless as you’re holding a button then moving a stick, meanwhile your character is completely exposed and vulnerable. To make things more dynamic, and realistic, I feel this is where the magic of Kinect could come in handy. Clench the hand, move your arm around the screen or shout out a voice action to destroy a branch and start over. Simple things that could make the experience all the better.

Going back to the puzzles, even later on in the game, these are based on the same platform climbing principle. While there are a few lovely ideas with satisfying results, i’m disappointed by the overall lack of ambition and had hoped the game would strive to make things a bit more taxing.

1387926358_4196

Some areas marked for patching and improvement

  • Kinect support of some sort could help with the clunky controls of the Marker.
  • Some irregular controller disconnect crashes that force you to restart the game
  • Some physics balancing
  • Make some of the achievements secret. Actual story-spoilers in some of the descriptions.
  • (Any others? Let us know!)

e32013-05

Final Analysis

Max: Curse of Brotherhood is a charming platformer with some genuinely lovely ideas and solid execution. It’s nice to play a game where the aim isn’t to shoot enemies, it’s to outsmart them. That said, I feel the game could have benefitted from even more ambition and would have loved to have seen a few more risks with the concepts introduced.

It looks wonderful, it handles well and to date, it is the best digital release on Xbox One next to Peggle 2. Still, the cumbersome Marker controls do ever so slightly detract from the experience.

Overall, Max The Curse of Brotherhood is an enjoyable romp and well worth a purchase, despite the puzzle repetition and surprising control-choices.

Time Played: Eight Hours

If you have any specific questions about the game, noticed any problems or don’t feel we’ve answered something specifically enough, sound off in the comments below and we’ll get right on replying. 

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,