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Posted by moonhead on Jan 21, 2014
Review – Max: The Curse of Brotherhood

Review – Max: The Curse of Brotherhood

If from the title you were expecting some Da Vinci code style story about secret societies like the Ilumanati or Mason’s you are going to be left a little disappointed. Because what you are getting is the age-old story of the older brother and his rather annoying younger sibling (Yes I have an exceptionally annoying younger brother as Drew will testify to. He is, in short a bell-end but I still love him). In this story you are the titular Max who comes home from school to find his younger brother playing with all his toys. Upon finding this he does what we all do now in the modern age and consults the Internet on how to get rid of this nuisance. He finds a spell and upon repeating it, a portal to another dimension opens and big monstrous hand pops through takes his brother away. Racked with guilt he grabs his rucksack and jumps in after him before the portal closes. Giving chase he bumps into a friendly witch who advises that his brother is in deep peril and if he is not rescued by the end of the day he will be gone forever. To help him on his quest she offers to bestow upon him a weapon with magical qualities, the only thing Max is carrying is a marker pen in his rucksack. So Max ventures off to save his brother with the now Magic Marker allowing him to draw things into the world.Max-2

As you may have already guessed the rather generic story above sets up a 2d platform puzzler and after Peggle 2 is the 2nd downloadable only game to launch on Microsoft’s fledgling Xbox One marketplace. Being an Xbox One title you would expect the game to look good, and it does. The graphics all look very pretty and there is a slight hand modelled Claymation feel to them. The different worlds that Max ventures through offer up some variety. It is not however a showcase for the Xbox One’s power and there is nothing that could not be done on the Xbox 360. The sound and voice acting is all of a good quality and just shows how far the small independently designed games have come since their arrival in the early days of Xbox Live Marketplace with production qualities rivalling the AAA blockbuster disk release.

The gameplay setup with the magic marker is quite unique and cumbersome at the same time. There are 3 different drawing abilities indicated by different coloured points on the screen. With an orange point you can draw a platform out of the ground which you do by holding in the right trigger and using the right stick to draw it. The drawn platforms are fine it’s when you get the green and blue points that problems start to arise as these let you draw in branches and water jets respectively. The problem with these is you need to be accurate with your drawing and this is just nigh on impossible with the analogue stick. Trying to draw an S  shaped branch from a green spot to give you some steps ends up being infuriating with constantly having to use X and the right trigger to cut it down and redraw it over and over. Also when you add these drawing skills in to the more action jump and run sequences it will test your gamepad dexterity skills to infuriating levels. None of this aided by the slightly floaty jump and run control which do their best to ruin the game with a few too many unnecessary trial and error game deaths.

MAX-TCoB_screenshot_Into_the_Wild2-noscaleSurprisingly the botched game controls do not completely ruin the game and when it gets things right you will be grinning from ear-to-ear. This mainly due to some good level design, especially with the puzzles which have a few good head scratching and light-bulb moments. The puzzles generally have you herding the baddies to their death or by keeping you out of their clutches with platforms and branches, all drawn awkwardly by your fair hand. There is only ever one solution to a puzzle and there are few moments where you feel like an idiot when the solution finally dawns upon you, or if after to many repeated efforts Max pipes up with an idea to help.

I cannot help but think that if this was on the PS Vita, 3DS or Wii U with their touch screen interfaces it would have been a better more rounded experience. In fact I would urge Press Play the games developers to give this a go and I would have definitely add a point or two to my score. However it is still a reasonably charming game and if you are struggling with the usual January games drought it may well be worth a punt but at £11.99 its a bit expensive for an impulse buy.

Additional – Press Play have now become a Microsoft in-house developer so we are not likely to see this on any other format now.

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