Max: The Curse of Brotherhood – charmingly frustrating puzzle platforming fun

I’ve always loved me a good platformer, ever since I was a young lad. It was the simplicity of the games that I loved, but that was mainly because I was young and found it difficult to grasp much else than pressing A to jump. Since growing up, I’ve spent much of my time playing the ‘epics’ of the recent generations, (your Oblivions and Red Deads), and avoiding the simpler titles, (your Sonics and Raymans). It wasn’t because I thought that they looked like bad games, I just couldn’t be bothered with them and I’m really not sure why. When I was browsing through the different titles available on the Xbox One, I stumbled upon Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. There were other titles to choose from, I must admit (though not many that jumped out at me), but going on a recommendation from a delightful chap on N4G, I decided to give it a go. From the outset, I was not disappointed. This charming little game, (with the cheap price-tag of just £11), is packed full of content and a good few hours of joy. So, random N4G gent, I tip my hat to you, good sir.

The plot to the game is simple, like many platformers. Max comes home to find his little brother playing with his favourite toys (without his permission, of course). Understandably, Max is not best pleased, so he jumps on the internet and searches for a way to get his brother off of his back. The first hit on Google was a bit alarming, a dark curse that would send ones sibling to a terrible place and out of ones bedroom (which is understandably quite alluring – having grown up with a younger brother, I too know the pains of a sibling “borrowing” my toys).  As you would expect, Max’s young brother is sucked into a dark portal, a doorway to another world. Max, immediately regretting his decision to read out the incantation, chases after him through the portal – and adventure ensues.

max-the-curse-of-brotherhood-15

The action never really stops in this game, there’s hardly ever the chance for a breather. Visually, it’s stunning. The scenery is impressive and the characters are brilliant in their simplicity. Max looks much like Jimmy Neutron, with his characteristically quirky quaffed ginger hair. The setting changes from luscious green forests to dark, dingy caves, but the levels never feel the same. It avoids the samey repetitiveness that some platformers suffer from and, instead, delivers a wonderfully diverse game world that seems to be full of depth, despite the side-scrolling nature of the title.

Of late, Max seems to have been getting a lot of bad press (largely from IGN) and I can’t for the life of me understand why. Just for a heads up, read their review and then read the comments below, not a single person agrees with the reviewer. It seems that their main qualm was with the ‘complicated’ controls of the game. Granted, it wasn’t the easiest title to grasp, it took me all of five minutes to understand how Max’s magic marker worked (more on that in a bit). I think the main problem with many gamers these days is that, if it isn’t dumbed down to the bare bones, they seem hesitant to actually sit and grind out the learning process. At times it was frustrating, but that frustration made it even more rewarding when I finally cracked the puzzle and advanced to the next stage. IGN said that it was ‘drawn out’, but that was only because the reviewer probably sucked at the game, and they couldn’t solve the puzzles. It’s one of the same reasons as to why people are hating on Knack at the moment. Hit up Call of Duty on veteran difficulty and you’ll see what ‘drawn out’ really means. That was off topic, but you get my point – give games a chance, people! Stop rage-quitting and actually try to beat the challenge, bring back the days of old where you would tirelessly work to knock ASS off of the top-scorers on the PacMan machine. Unnecessary rant over. I will say, though, that the game isn’t one to be played by younger gamers. Not because of the content, but because of it’s difficulty. It’s the sort of game that parent and child would sit down to crack together, like when I was a kid and my Dad and I would work our way through the original Tomb Raider titles.

Max-Curse-of-Brotherhood-2-Xbox-ONE

Where was I? Oh yeah, Max’s magic marker. In essence, Max is a puzzle game. You use Max’s magic marker to manipulate certain points on the level and the environment around you. Grow vines to climb and swing from, branches to stand on, streams to shoot you across the map with and fireballs to … well, blow stuff up. You then combine these later on in the game to traverse the puzzles and save your brother from the evil Moustachio – a creepy old wizard who resembles a deformed penis with a moustache. These puzzles can be incredibly frustrating at times, and take a number of deaths to complete (unless you rock at puzzle / platform games, unlike me). Thankfully, the checkpoints are incredibly kind and, once you do finally complete it, the joy is almost overwhelming (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve high-fived my girlfriend whilst she and I played through this game).

I absolutely loved playing Max and although I can’t see where they’d release some DLC for it, I really hope that they do. I’m not sure how they’d squeeze it in, but I just can’t get enough of this game. The mechanics are interesting, the graphics are stunning and the overall story is fun and neatly compact. The only flaw is its difficulty, but if it were easy, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed completing it so much. It’s the sort of game that you would (quite ironically) play with your little brother as you help each other to complete it. These sorts of games are few and far between and I relish the opportunity to get my teeth stuck into them. I love restarting checkpoints, because I remember how hard I worked to get there in the first place. Games seem to  be getting progressively easier as time goes on.  I recently completed the Battlefield 4 campaign on hard difficulty in just a few hours. ‘Hard’ is an understatement, I must admit. The sense of achievement that I got when completing Max is a feeling that’s lost in most games these days, and there really should be more games like Max. Bring back the charmingly challenging platformer, I say.

Developer: Press Play
Games
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360
Genre: Platformer, Puzzle, Side-Scroller
Player Modes: Single Player