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Review: Max – The Curse of Brotherhood
Back in June of this year at E3, Microsoft announced that Max – The Curse of Brotherhood would be coming to their new hardware. Although we knew it was coming, we never knew when. A few days ago Microsoft surprised us with releasing Max seemingly out of thin air. After playing through Max, I’m not sure why they kept this game out of the spotlight.
Max:TCoB is a re-imagination of Press Play’s Max and the Magic Marker that was released originally in early 2010. This time around Max is annoyed by his younger brother, Felix. In typical annoyed older brother fashion, Max hits the internet in search of how to rid himself of this nuisance better known as Felix. After repeating a chant that was on a webpage, a portal opens up and a giant claw reaches through and nabs Felix. Max, instantly knowing the error of his ways, jumped after his brother into the portal and thus begins his adventure.
Through that opening cut scene you are hit with two dramatic realizations. The first is that a video game can be beautiful, bright and vibrant, to the point that it almost hurts your eyes. Second, this is a Unity engine game?! I known that Unity has recently been huge in the PC scene but never really blew me away graphically. Max has totally changed my opinion on the engine and am looking forward to its future on these new machines. To contrast the bright and plucky portions of the game, there are darker areas that really show off fantastic lighting effects.
Entering this new world Max runs into an elderly lady telling him of an old evil mastermind desperately seeking to trade bodies with someone younger, so that he may live longer and cause more chaos. This evil genius is known as Mustachio and he has kidnapped Felix. She quickly proclaims Max is the one that will do what she could not: defeat Mustachio and save his brother. She could not help Max in her fragile state, so instead she gives a marker her soul and magical abilities.
You will traverse through levels like a typical platformer. In this fashion, Max is actually quite forgiving in the jumping and climbing of obstacles. Often times I try to fall off the side of a crate so I can then push it, just to find myself climbing right back on top of it unintentionally. This proved to be a slight annoyance throughout the game and may be the result of Press Play trying to get players to focus more on the puzzles, rather than the actual platforming.
Every puzzle in Max:TCoB revolves around the magic marker. At first Max can only create earth from certain sparkly areas. Throughout his adventure the marker will gain more powers. Such as the ability to draw branches, vines, water and eventually fireballs. Each power serves as a tool to solve whatever puzzle impedes his progress. Holding down the right trigger will bring out the marker and allow you to directly wield its amazing powers. For the most part, functionality of the marker caused no immediate problems until the final boss fight. At that point I died more than a few times all because I couldn’t accurately shoot a fireball where it needed to go.
For the most part the puzzles have one solution but not everyone will go about it in the same fashion. At times the game will choose to automatically record certain sequences that may highlight other gamer’s trials and tribulations. This is pretty neat when I can go and look to see how Godfree attacked a certain puzzle in comparison to myself. I’ve seen some of these clips on the upwards of 2 minutes in length. The downside of this is resisting the temptation to look at solutions when you get stuck. Or perhaps accidentally watching someone else’s clip from further in the game. How you view these things is entirely up to you though. I did find it quite entertaining watching Godfree struggle for 2 minutes on one puzzle that only took me 20 seconds.
Peppered throughout the game are collectibles. Thankfully Press Play decided to be nice and tell you how many of these collectibles are in a level and how many you have found already. This improves the replayability of the game since most of these require extra traversal and problem solving to reach. I finished the main story with 86% completion in just under 6 hours.
A beautifully crafted world.
Puzzles are challenging but also rewarding.
So far the best use of the automatic record feature on Xbox One.
The magic marker may be hard to wield adeptly for some players.
Platforming is almost too simple and floaty, often causing Max to jump back on things when you don’t want him to.
The Final Word
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a pleasant surprise. At first glance it may appear to be a child’s game but the puzzles and platforming sequences say otherwise. Filled with tons of clever puzzles and plenty of slow-motion moments that will leave you feeling like a complete badass when you pull them off correctly, Max:TCoB is an enjoyable experience from start to end that only leaves you feeling puzzled by why Microsoft would stay so quiet on this title. You can find it exclusively on Xbox One as a downloadable title for $14.99.