The story begins with Max returning home from school, bounding along the footpath towards the house. Upon opening the door, he is greeted with the sight of toys strewn across the stairs leading up to his bedroom, and the joyful laughs and squeals of a child playing. It turns out his brother Felix is playing with his toys again, and Max is none too impressed. Pulling out his laptop and performing a Giggle search (hah) he looks up how to make your brother disappear. After reading a spell passage, a rift opens and a creature pulls Felix into the void. Feeling guilty, Max jumps in after his brother, hoping to rescue Felix from the situation Max has put him in.
The further into the story you go, you begin to learn more about the dangerous world the rift has teleported the brothers to. A mysterious old woman tells you about the evil lord Mustacho, and what he plans to do to Felix. The woman then bestows powers into a magic marker that Max has with him, and from there the real adventure begins.
Musically the game tends to take a rather minimalistic approach, with ambient symphonic tracks playing throughout your adventure. It is really successful in setting up the mood of each area you come across, and is never so overbearing that it takes away from what is happening. During cutscenes the music will upswell into something more substantial, and overall the soundtrack is quite superb and effective in what it aims to do.
As for the voice acting, it is stellar, with the actors really selling their roles beautifully. The standout overall is Max, but the supporting cast is also impressive in their performances as well. The sound design is rather good as well, with falling rocks and crumbling vines having a believable thud and crunch respectively. Even the ambient noises are great here, from birds chirping to wind blowing, everything helps to get you lost in this world they have created.
Visuals and Performance
The game has a beautiful style to it, reminiscent of a child’s 3d movie. The characters have over exaggerated features, which gives them a rather charming look. Enemy creatures look equally menacing, but not so much that they look out of place at all. The environments are also impressive, with forest areas looking dense with foliage, desert levels are arid with sand kicking up as you walk and creatures attack etc. Everything has a place here, which makes for a coherent visual look and feel.
Unfortunately the performance is not up to the same high standard of the visuals. This game runs incredibly rough, which is a killer in sections that require precise platforming. The frame rate drops significantly and continuously throughout. Whether you are walking, running from enemies, or watching a cutscene, you will be greeted with a stutters mess. It is more significant when the screen is zoomed out to a wider shot or if there are multiple moving creatures on screen, but even when it is just a close up of Max walking it will slow down like crazy.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a 2.5d physics based platformer with a twist. The bulk of the game has you running through each level, solving puzzles and collecting the collectables strewn across each level if you so choose. The twist though, is that Max has a magic marker that can create things to help him solve the various puzzles you come across.
First of all, let’s talk about the basic platforming. The level design seems well thought out, which is necessary in a platformer. Unfortunately, the act of controlling Max is quite finicky, with floaty jumps, imprecise control inputs and significant performance issues (which I will get to later) all hampering the experience. You will find you know what you need to do, but a floaty jump that happens a noticeable amount of time after you press the button will force you to replay a section, or worse, redo a whole puzzle sequence.
The puzzle solving elements fair much better, relying on the magic marker to solve each section. As you travel through the game, you will see glowing spots in the world which indicate you can use your magic marker there. Holding down ZR brings out the marker, and you then draw with the left stick from the glowing spot whatever it is you can create. What you draw is determined by the colour of the glowing spot, with orange drawing rock pillars, green making tree roots etc.
Each puzzle is clever, using the different magic marker abilities in different ways. There were multiple times where I had to stop and really think of how to achieve what needed to be done, and it was a real joy figuring that out. The goal is always obvious, with the solution being hidden, so it is always just a matter of working out how the game wants you to achieve said goal.
Occasionally though, the game sets up epic chase sequences. These require a mix of precise platforming, split second decision making, and quick puzzle solving with your magic marker. All of these things combined together are an absolute train wreck, as the bad controls make these parts extremely frustrating. Not only that, when you use the magic marker, you can’t move Max, meaning you have sections where you have to stand still while you draw vines or platforms while you are being chased by something that will kill you if you are caught. Needless to say, these are not fun at all.
The game is on the pricier side for eshop indies, so is it worth your hard earned cash? Well, not exactly. The game comes in at a respectable 6 hours, but as a single player narrative driven game, it is a one and done affair. There are collectables, but they aren’t very fun to collect, and are easy enough to collect on your first play through. After you have finished the game and got all the collectables, the only thing for you left to do is play it again.