Max: The Curse of Brotherhood has been around for a while in many iterations and has finally found its way onto Nintendo Switch. It is the follow up to Max and the Magic Marker, released back in 2010 and follows the titular character on a new adventure. The story starts when Max returns home from school to find his somewhat annoying little brother trespassing in his room, smashing up his toys. A quick internet search leads Max to a witch’s spell which he casts in anger, accidentally opening a portal to a strange land. Felix is grabbed by a huge claw and dragged through the portal with Max hot on his heels, beginning his epic adventure. The game has a good level of humour throughout and raises more than a few chuckles as Max meets bizarre and colourful characters as he progresses through the story.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a 2.5D side scrolling adventure that takes place over 7 chapters that play out as one long story. I know what you’re thinking, another side scrolling adventure…. but Max: The Curse of Brotherhood has a gameplay twist in the form of a magical marker pen. Shortly into the game, Max learns that the world he has entered has a big bad named Mustacho who plans to use Felix in his diabolical plans. Max has an ally however, in the form of a kindly old lady, who imbues a marker pen with magical powers allowing Max to continue his journey.
The core gameplay is platforming, like so many games before, however the levels are well planned, and the introduction of the magic marker does help it stand out from the crowd. The gameplay itself is slick and smooth and the variety of puzzles help keep it from being too monotonous. The story takes Max across a range of environments, from dusty deserts to rich forests and even lava filled subterranean caves! Max gains new skills as he progresses which allow him to change the environment to solve puzzles or reach previously unreachable places. These skills include being able to make and destroy pillars of rock, moving jets of water or creating vines to swing on or tether to the environment. These skills lead to some very interesting puzzles that are fun to solve, however, they aren’t massively challenging once the core mechanics are revealed.
There are a large range of collectibles and secrets scattered throughout the levels which are hidden in some tricky places, adding to the challenge for those who enjoy collecting them. Many platform games of this ilk can get frustrating towards the end as levels become very difficult in order to make the last few levels more challenging, but due to the variety in puzzles, I didn’t feel this way with Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, which is both positive and negative, depending on perspective. As mentioned earlier, in order to make a game appeal to all ages, the puzzles for the main story are far from challenging. A few may take more than one attempt but once each concept is grasped, the puzzles are fairly straightforward. The challenge lies in the collectibles and secrets as these are the puzzles that are taxing, but not everyone will have the patience to look for them.
Max is not alone in this faraway land and Mustacho has a range of minions that are tasked with stopping Max from reaching his little brother. As max has no weapons at his disposal apart from the marker, the enemies dotted around the levels are technically puzzles and require thought to beat rather than combat. For example, an enemy may be throwing bombs at Max, blocking the path, but a quick stone pillar in the right place will cause them to bounce back and blow up the enemy, clearing the path. This works really well and leads to some very satisfying wins as well as some tense chase scenes trying to escape enemies. The game feels like a call-back to some classic side-scrolling puzzle games such as Heart of Darkness and Abe’s Odyssey, which in my eyes, can only be a good thing!
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a beautiful to look at and each different environment makes the game feel rich throughout. The dusty desert scenes are complete with cow-skulls and cacti, the dense jungle levels are complete with bright flowers and foliage and the dark caves glow with strange flora and fauna creating some impressive lighting effects. The characters and the scenery are vibrant and colourful and will appeal to younger gamers and those with a little more experience will appreciate a good-looking game when they see it. This is the second version of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood I have played, having completed the PS4 version upon its release last year and the switch version looks identical in my eyes. The game ran smoothly in handheld mode and looked crisp and bright on the big screen in docked mode although there are a few blurred edges if looked at closely and occasionally it can fall a little behind – neither of these are a deal breaker however. If played in handheld mode, the Switch version makes the most of the touchscreen allowing players to use the marker using their finger. This works well and seems a little less cumbersome than the trigger and joypad settings on other platforms or when played in TV mode.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood does enough to stand out in a sea of similar titles thanks to a unique gameplay hook and some clever puzzles. The bright aesthetics and straightforward gameplay will keep younger gamers happy and with a plethora of secrets for those willing to look for them, older gamers will appreciate it too. The puzzles that need solving to progress the level are far from difficult, but I feel this is forgivable in order to make a game accessible to both old and young alike. There is something to be said about a game being re-released on new platforms 5 years after being released, it must be doing something right! If platformers are your thing, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is definitely worth the time.
- Gorgeous to look at.
- Appeals to all ages.
- Expensive for a 5 year old game.
- Minor graphical and performance issues.
- A little on the short side.