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Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review: Tragic Marker

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Title: Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
Price: $14.99
System: Xbox One
Release Date: December 31, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Microsoft (Press Play)
ESRB Rating: “E 10+” for Everyone 10 and Up

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a spiritual successor to Max and The Magic Marker, which I remember seeing on DS and being intrigued by. I never did get around to playing it, but I’m happy to see another platforming hero in the making.

Max The Curse of Brotherhood Bridge

Be careful what you wish for.

Who among us eldest siblings didn’t wish subconsciously or (out loud) to be free of our younger brother or sister?  In a world without magic, these wishes fall on deaf ears and we have to share our toys. But in Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, Max does that and finds a magic spell on his “Giggle” search engine. A monster arm reaches in and takes his younger brother, Felix. Somebody is getting his Internet privileges revoked when he returns from that other dimension.

Max has just enough time to get through the magical portal himself, and is off on an adventure. It turns out the boys are trapped in a long running battle between two mystical beings: one good, one evil. Max’s marker is the only thing he brought with him, but in a land of magic that’s good enough.

Max The Curse of Brotherhood Felix

Never forget your marker.

The marker can bring the world around it to life by drawing water spouts, lifting rock formations and solving some interesting puzzles. These were difficult enough to give a real sense of accomplishment once I figured them out. I’d immediately think to myself, “I should have come up with that sooner,” a good indication I was learning how this world worked.

Any game about saving the world with art had better be beautiful in its own right, and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is. You really get the scope of these tiny little boys in a world full of giant trolls, wizards and numerous environmental hazards.

But sadly, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood main mechanic doesn’t live up to the promise.  The drawing is awesome in theory but in practice, doesn’t always work like it’s supposed to.

You’ll use the marker to lift a lot of rock formations up, giving Max platforms to jump onto. If you draw it too tall or too short, you can’t adjust that on the fly. You’ll need to destroy the entire rock formation and start over. That’s mildly annoying for puzzles where you have time to figure out precisely how tall they should be. When it occurs during chase scenes or any place where time is of the essence, it leads to death.

Several of the game’s puzzles take time to figure out because they are well-conceived. Just as many take time because an inch of space is the difference between life and death. Often the only way to determine if that landing pad is tall enough is by falling to your doom. I love a game where I can learn more through trial and error. These are more instances of “trial and I have absolutely no idea why I just died.” Max’s platforming is on the floaty side, again making the timing on jumping and running more complex than it should be.

The story and art design is very appealing to younger gamers. My kids can’t wait to tear into Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. I don’t think they will have the patience to finish it though.

This title cries out for some kind of motion or voice control. The existing scheme requires you to clutch the right trigger while working the face buttons. That stopped being comfortable for me after a lengthy session, I’m thinking smaller hands will have the same complaint. That’s especially true considering how many times you will need to hit X to destroy what you just created with A.

Max’s platforming is floaty as well. That makes it really easy to jump too far or stop too short. Combine that with the imprecise marker mechanic, and a game that should have a pleasant surprise becomes forgettable.

xl_Max-Curse-of-Brotherhood-624

Sometimes, things work. Sometimes, they don’t.”

When Max: The Curse of Brotherhood works, it works brilliantly. The hero times jumps perfectly, draws a water spout to reach safety and leaves trolls in his wake. Max will then deliver a clever quip about how stupid the monsters are. In those moments, we realize it’s the villains who are in trouble and not the tiny star. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a game that fights to be better than its primary gameplay mechanic, and ultimately fails to do so. Your level of enjoyment here will be directly tied to your tolerance for deaths you couldn’t have prevented.

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