Max is just a normal older brother, who gets annoyed with his younger siblings. When his younger brother Felix is taken away by a monster from another dimension, Max takes matters into his own hands and begins his rescue. A light hearted and fun side scrolling platform game with cutscenes and a magic marker, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood offers players several hours of really well crafted adventuring.
Everyone with a younger brother or sister knows they can be annoying every now and then. Hell, even you were annoying to them every now and then too. Maybe sometimes you said something that was a little too mean and unjust though, and for what? At the end of the day you're family and you'll probably jump head first into a weird portal to chase after a giant monster who kidnapped them if you had to. Max is no different than you, and his little brother Felix is no different than the typical younger sibling.
At the beginning of the game you're greeted with a fun and colorful cutscene as Max, the main character who you play as, is a young kid who just got home from what we can imagine was a miserable day long prison sentence at school, when he walks in his room and finds his younger brother Felix playing with all of his toys. Some destroyed, some thrown about without care, and some in his hands being used like a weak prop in a Die Hard scene. Max keeps his cool the best he can though. Then he catches a toy to the head. It's enough now, and he Google searches… I mean, Giggle searches, for a way to make his brother disappear. After reading aloud a short spell, a giant portal rips through the bedroom wall, and a giant hairy monster arm reaches in and grabs Felix, taking him away. Max didn't of course mean for this; he was just trying to vent. But without hesitation, he jumps into the portal after his brother, and there lies the start of this really fun adventure.
Every developer out there who makes side scrolling games should take notes from Press Play and Playdead;Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Inside are two of my favorite titles in this genre. They're of course pretty different when you consider the brutality and metaphorical message behind Inside, and the innocent and fun Pixar styled story found in this one. They both execute the perfect amount of initial drama to make you interested to play, giving a reason to run like crazy (although this game is more upfront about it with cutscenes included), and a barrage of puzzles that don't feel like they were put in to be put in. Some side-scrolling platform games will design the look of the game with basic movements, and cut sections out and try to turn them into puzzles. It prolongs everything and bores you quickly. Everyone can make a game for this genre, but few can execute it well.
In this game, you do all the typical running, jumping, grabbing, pushing, and more. The uniqueness though comes with your magic marker, which will allow you to interact with the environment in two ways: grab/pull things, and destroy things. Commonly you'll use it to lift a part of the ground up, making a tower of sorts which will act as a platform to jump to or an elevator to higher places. Occasionally you may build the platform too high or too low, so being able to destroy it allows you other attempts. You'll know when you're able to use the magic marker because there will be small orange glowing areas on screen. The puzzles will grow with elaboration as you progress; where in the beginning you just need to grow a platform to cross quicksand, later on you'll need to make 4 platforms next to each other that create a downward ramp for a large boulder to come crashing down on even larger but already made platforms. After the boulder hits the really large platforms and sends them into a falling dominos style action, you need to jump from one to the next.
This brings me around to another major gameplay aspect of the game, and that's the quick and chaotic moments where you have no choice but to sprint to safety. The oversized troll monster thingy that steal Felix through the portal early on when have a love for trying to chase you down. Probably to eat you though. When he shows up you have to run through an obstacle course to get away. Often times he will get just within fingernail distance before you successfully escape (if you escape). But again, moments like this can happen at any moment, just like the falling platforms one I explained. I don't want to give anything about the story away as it is not the most common thing to have a great story go along with a platform, but there is an evil old guy who keeps eyes watching the world. Literally, eyes watching the world. These purple eyes are scattered throughout the world, and it works like a collectible to find them all and pluck them so they can dry up and die.
Sound and Graphics
I'm not sure how many of you have seen Disney's movie Meet the Robinsons. And if you have, did you ever play the game that released on last gen consoles that followed the movie? I feel like I'm too old to be liking it, but that game still is one of my more favorite of last gen. The cartoon and light hearted adventure made it so chill to play. I get the same vibes from this title, and perhaps that's another reason why I like it so much. The attention to detail is real though, even if animated in style. The blades of grass, the trees in the background, the dirt flying about, the water spraying you to new heights. It's not realism, but it's good.
You'll easily feel immersed in the atmosphere right away. The camera work will pan as necessary to deliver the most cinematic feeling. For example, early on you have to cross a desert, before you get to an oasis. Instead of cutting the scene after you leave one area, and starting the next area with a new scene, the game lets you continue running. The camera zooms out really far to give an metaphorical image of him having to run a far distance through the desert, before zooming back in really close to show him dazzled by the life saving place. There is also a lot of voice acting in this game, which takes place during cutscenes and when Max rips up the eyes around the world. It's well done, and is just more to love about the game. Too many games these days try to get away with just text boxes.
The game released for Xbox 360, during a time where I wasn't gaming very much, so it understandably flew under the radar with me. I saw it earlier this year for cheap on the Xbox One, and when I looked at other reviews, saw only mediocre scores, so it was a little unfortunate in my mind. I don't really know how this game hasn't seen more love, because it's genuinely really good all around. It is a simple, lighthearted, yet immersive story with all the right elements. You'll find drama, humor, chaos, and mystery all within the first 10 minutes. The puzzles are repetitive in nature, but luckily avoid ever feeling repetitive. The use of the marker is consistent throughout, but every obstacle feels fresh and new. The only issues I had was with grabbing ledges or vines every once in awhile. Occasionally the game wasn't as responsive in this regard, but it's far from a misery to experience. With several hours of well designed platforming, and many cutscenes to help drive the narrative, the game is a real gem for only $15.
+ Lighthearted yet engaging story of brotherly love