Max and the Curse of Brotherhood is a puzzle-platformer that originally released on Xbox One back in 2013. Four years later, Flashbulb games and Wired Productions have brought this charming game to the PlayStation, Which is where I got to experience the adventure of Max for the first time and it an adventure I’m glad I took.
Max and the Curse of Brotherhood is a sequel to the 2010 Max and the Magic Marker and although I can’t speak about how well it sits in cannon with its predecessor (I didn’t play the original game, sorry), I can say it works well as a standalone game. The game opens with a short cutscene, our soon-to-be hero actually starts off as a villain, with us seeing Max wishing for the disappearance of his younger brother Felix. Much to Max’s disbelief, this wish comes true and Felix is sucked through a portal and into another world – but fear not, our-soon-to-be hero Max is quick to start his path to redemption and follows Felix into the unknown.
The story of Max and the Curse of Brotherhood isn’t the most inventive, if you’ve seen a Pixar or Disney movie then you can pretty much guess where it’s going. This isn’t to say it’s bad, the small snippets of cuts scenes you’re treated with throughout the roughly six-hour adventure are charmingly animated and really help show Max’s devious and sometimes sinister character, I mean, just look at the joy on his face when ripping an eyeball out the wall.
Although the story may feel predictable, the method in which you progress is far from predictable; Max and the Curse of Brotherhood challenged me with some of the best puzzle designs I’ve ever seen. Early on your given a Magic Marker and it’s this multi-use marker that provides the main gameplay mechanic. As you progress through the diverse stages you’ll unlock new abilities for your marker, including the ability to terraform ground, stretch out branches and dangling vines, just to mention a few. The pace at which you earn these upgrade is perfectly executed, just when I felt like a mechanic may be getting old another ability was added to the marker.
The latter puzzles of the game start to bring all the abilities together, on several occasions I had to put the controller down and really asses my on-screen options, and when I did manage to solve the riddle I couldn’t help but feel a sense of achievement, even treating the air to a little fist pump on the odd occasion. I haven’t enjoyed puzzle solving as much as this since Playdead’s brilliant Inside that release last year (I know, technically Max and the Curse of Brotherhood released brother inside).
For all the thought-provoking enjoyment the puzzles offer, there is one small element that lets them down. Max and the Curse of Brotherhood features the odd spontaneous chase sequence, where you must utilise the maker while being chased by, well, whatever the hell that thing is. I guess the idea of these short sequences is to create a tense cinematic element to the gameplay, but due to the sometimes sluggish response of the marker they often bring more frustration than wide-eyed enjoyment.
While on a revenge mission to get his brother back Max will travel through a variety of environments, which are broken down into chapters. These environments don’t hugely contrast with each other, instead, they seamlessly fit together to create the organic feeling of a continuous adventure through a fantasy land. While each new environment brings about new obstacles, they also bring new traps and creature to maneuver past, and with no way of attacking, these mini-encounters feel like a puzzle in their own right.
No platformer would be complete without the addition of collectibles, and I’m pleased to say that Max is no different. The game offers two types of collectibles for players to find; some freakishly weird CCTV eyeballs and an old lady’s missing pendant pieces. The eyeballs are pretty common, just playing through the game you’ll find roughly 75% of them; but the pendant pieces are a little more tricky. Both sets of collectibles regularly require the imaginative use of your Magic Marker, and although I’m not ‘that collectible guy’ they do bring a replayable element to the game.
Max and the Curse of Brotherhood is an adventure I wish I embarked on when it initially released four years ago. Although the story offers little in regard to its originality, the puzzles you’ll face while it unfolds are some of the most creative and enjoyable I’ve ever played through. Add this enjoyment to the organic environment you’ll play through end enticing collectible you’ll find along the way and Max and the Curse of Brotherhood is a puzzle-platformer I’d happily recommend to anyone.