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Max: The Curse of Brotherhood

Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Developer: Press Play
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Platformer (2.5D)/ Action/ Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Developer Press Play, after being acquired by Microsoft Studios, has brought back Max for another platforming masterpiece. This time around, the gameplay has changed a bit, but the premise is the same… to draw your way through levels to reach your end goal. In the first iteration, entitled Max and the Magic Marker, Max entered a magical world where he could use his marker to draw in objects used for physics-based puzzle solving. The drawing was fairly crude in nature, but the gameplay mechanics were very original.

Fast-forward to 2014 and the newly titled Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is an outstanding spectacle of graphical prowess. It is easy to see what (I assume to be) a larger budget can do to taking an outstanding concept to the next level of polish.

Starting with a cut scene that rivals TV quality animated visuals and immediately get you into the action and sets the stage. Once in-game, it is easy to be impressed by the environments that you’ll be platforming through, including the lighting that simply adds to the beauty of the ‘toony, yet believable worlds. The audio in Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is also excellent, from the littlest sound effect right up to the background music and voice acting.


Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a 2D side-scroller set in a fully 3D world with beautifully interactive environments. Starting off in Max’s home, we see the story unfold when Max reads about sorcery from a webpage - a way to make his annoying brother disappear. Magically behind them, a portal appears and the arm of something… something large… grabs Max’s brother Felix and drags him through. Immediately realizing his mistake, Max jumps through the portal after his brother and the adventure begins.

Immediately through the portal, Max finds himself in a new world and must begin his search for Felix. This is where the platformer portion of the game begins and ultimately feels like any other enjoyable side-scroller on the market. Max doesn’t actually get use of his magic marker right away this time around, but after a brief brush with death, he is able to climb his way up a tree to meet with a sorceress who blesses Max’s only tool of choice with the ability to draw branches into the environment around him. Using these branches, Max is able to climb, navigate around, and solve environment-based puzzles, while avoiding the evil henchmen of Lord Mustacho, the evil mustache-man that captured Felix.

In all honesty, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood feels more like a reboot rather than a sequel to Max and the Magic Marker since there really isn’t much in the way of acknowledgement that this special marker was used before. But in a change of fate, it isn’t exactly a bad thing. In the original, you were able to draw anything and anywhere, based solely on how much ink was currently in your marker. The beauty of this was that nearly anything was possible, although in practice, really the same types of actions solved the puzzles within. Here in The Curse of Brotherhood, however, you can only draw at certain marker point that are clearly marked in the environments. At first, I have to admit having a bit of disappointment with this revelation, but after playing for a bit, I understood the need to reign things in somewhat and the gameplay actually works really well as a whole.

As you progress in your search for Felix, Max will gain multiple abilities with his magic marker. Eventually, Max’s marker will allow for drawing in branches, vines, water spouts, raising platforms, and shooting magic fire balls. With the exception of the fire balls, each power "grows" based on how much ink you are allowed per spot. This will range from very short to quite long sometimes, but the cool part is that you can draw virtually any shape with the tool. The magical items also interact with each other and other environmental objects. For example, a vine can attach to a branch or platform and the water spouts can launch Max or his objects to new heights.


Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is an interesting mix between a general 2D-style platformer and an environmental-based puzzle game. Because of this, there is a lot of running, jumping, and climbing in the game, but there are also certain moments of fast-paced intensity, and these tend to be the most difficult portions of the game. For example, you may be chased by a giant sliding down what feels like endless slopes, while having to react according to gaps in the ground. But then around the next corner, you may come upon an area where the camera zooms out just a bit to allow you time to figure out how you can use your magic marker to draw your way through what may be a lock and key style puzzle.

The balance between these two is nearly perfect, and in cases of death, the checkpoint is typically nearby, so the level can be continued relatively quickly without having to restart from the beginning. The environmental drawing means that you can do things like draw yourself some branch-steps, create a Tarzan-style vine string, or raise a box on a platform to reach new heights. In order to solve puzzles, you can even detach these physics-based objects (branches and vines) to interact with and swing from, making a few puzzles that require a bit of extra brain power, but not so much that you’ll find yourself frustrated. In short, the balance of fun vs. difficulty is perfect for all ages.

Game Mechanics:

Being that Max: The Curse of Brotherhood was first released for the consoles, the game does offer up a way to play with either the keyboard/mouse combo or a game controller. Trying both, they have their plusses and minuses. For example, the XBox controller that I used was absolutely perfect for the platforming portions of the game. The ability to easily walk, run, jump and otherwise navigate was very enjoyable. Using the keyboard, the game worked well, but just doesn’t have the same type of responsiveness so it is far easier to die because of fumble fingers vs. the controller route. However, quite the opposite is true when it comes to drawing with the marker. The mouse was far superior in this regard due to the precision it offered. Also, drawing with the controller was done with the Left Analog Stick, meaning that to draw, a modifier key was used so it felt a bit clunky in comparison.

That said, I have to also mention that both methods had errors at times where I was completely stuck and had to wait for responsiveness to return. Additionally, in cases where long vertical (and fast) movement was needed, the mouse was very slow and required the roll-lift-and-roll method because there was unfortunately no way to adjust the speed of the mouse in-game. The controller method in these cases worked perfectly, allowing for a smooth transition over long distances. Likewise, it was a bit disappointing to not have controller options or a keyboard / controller configuration screen for a little customization.

In all, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood isn’t exactly a long game (maybe 6-7 hours), but it is a very fun and enjoyable game. Fortunately, there are some crazy eyeball-plant things scattered in the levels that offer a way to add replay value in order to collect them all. There are also secret pieces of an amulet that additionally likely will take a replay to obtain. Oh, and did I mention Max: The Curse of Brotherhood was addictive? I literally couldn’t stop playing until the game was complete. Normally, I would say that a game of this length is pretty short, but for a retail price of $15USD, it is hard not to recommend Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and the enjoyment waiting for you.

-Woody, GameVortex Communications
AKA Shane Wodele

Minimum System Requirements:

OS: Windows XP SP3 or newer; Processor: Dual-Core 1.6 GHz / AMD Dual-Core Athlon 2.0 GHz; Memory: 2 BG RAM; Graphics: Intel HD 4000 or better; DirectX: Version 9.0c; Hard Drive: 2 GB available space; Sound Card: DirectX compatible

Test System:

Mac Book Pro with the following installed as a dual-boot:
Windows 7 64-bit with Service Pack 1 installed; Intel Core i7-3720QM CPU @ 2.60GHz 2.60 GHz; 8GB RAM; NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M
Xbox 360 Wireless Controller with PC Adaptor

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