Copenhagen-based game developers Press Play were acquired by Microsoft in 2012. If you played Max & the Magic Marker back in 2010 then you’ll have an idea of what to expect from their new title – Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. Originally slated for an early 2014 release the game was an early Christmas treat for Xbox One owners when it appeared on Dec 20th.
The setup for Max’s latest adventure is that his little brother Felix is annoying the hell out of him. Most kids have probably wished that someone would take their siblings away at some point but Max goes one better. He jumps on the Internet and finds a spell to make it happen.
Shortly after reading it aloud a magical portal opens up in their bedroom and a monster grabs Felix and pulls him through. Realising he needs to save Felix, before his parents find out, he leaps through the portal after them. Max finds himself in a fantastical world ruled by the evil Mustacho which is full of all manner of strange creatures, puzzles and plenty of danger.
Right from the start the gorgeous visuals make you feel like you are part of some new Pixar movie. The old flat cartoon visuals of the previous game have been dropped in favour of a huge graphical upgrade. This is a 2.5D platformer with some absolutely stunning and incredibly detailed environments With always plenty going on in the background.
Helping Max during his adventure is his trusty Magic Marker. At the beginning you can use it to draw or destroy pillars of rock to help Max reach higher ledges or move objects about. Holding the Right Trigger summons your Marker and then pressing A draws and X destroys. The Marker can be moved with the right thumbstick and this takes some getting used to.
As the game progresses Max’s Marker gains new abilities including drawing branches, vines, water spouts and fireballs. The game gives you a quick tutorial with each and then leaves you a visual cue each time one can be used. These don’t make the game too easy though as many of the puzzles require you to use the powers together in order to solve them.
This might mean connecting a vine to a branch in order to swing across a gap or using a rock pillar to push a vine. The developers have found an impressive number of ways to use the mechanics without the game feeling overly repetitive. One section is set underground in a dark cave system with the only light coming from Max. However when you use the Marker it also becomes a torch of sorts allowing you to get a better view. The game constantly introduces new ideas to keep things interesting but it’s up to you to work out how to use them.
One thing that is going to be an issue for some players, especially the younger ones, is that you will often draw something not quite as you wanted. The controls can a bit clumsy at times and this can lead to a lot of deaths when your are under pressure to draw something quickly. The developers are obviously aware of this and have implemented an automatic Matrix style time slowdown during particularly difficult parts such as during the exciting chase sequences.
The platforming is satisfying but the physics based puzzles are the stars of the game. Most are quite easy to solve but there are a few that will have you scratching your head for a while. The developers have managed to avoid the problem of getting yourself stuck by doing something incorrectly and there are often a few different ways you can tackle a situation. We love the way you can draw branches into shapes then chop them off And move them around.
The quest to save Max’s brother spans seven chapters which are each broken up into smaller levels. It’s going to take most players around 8 hours to get through the game. To keep you busy and to tempt you back once you’re done there are 75 evil eyes scattered around the levels for Max to destroy. There are also eighteen amulet pieces to find and collect.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a wonderful game that kept us thoroughly entertained from start to finish. Fans of platforming games or puzzle titles simply must give it a go.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is available now from the Xbox LIVE Marketplace priced at £11.99.