Press Play’s Max and The Magic Marker was a surprising success story. An undoubtedly high quality indie videogame that came from nowhere to end up on dozens of formats, including consoles, smartphones and in retail packages for Wii and Nintendo DS, the announcement of a sequel was perhaps inevitable. When that day came however, the revelation that it would be exclusive to Microsoft formats – at least initially – was something of a shock. And now Max: The Curse of Brotherhood has made it’s debut on Xbox One, bringing puzzle-platform action to the new console for the first time.
Many will instantly suggest that Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is trying to be this generation’s Braid or Limbo, given it’s development of unique world that resembles our own but comes with it’s own additional ruleset, however Press Play’s new generation debut isn’t quite setting that pace. It’s a videogame experience that will be fondly remembered by many but also bears the hallmarks of a title that has been developed to be host agnostic; it fails to capitalise on the many benefits this new hardware generation offers simply because it doesn’t limit itself to one (or maybe two) platform.
The experience starts very gently, providing the player with a straight forward set-up so that they may acclimatise to Max’s speed and jump distance, among other universal platform videogame rules. It’s not long before the player is given their first power however – the crux of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood’s experience – which allows them to use rock to their advantage. Pulling boulders out of the ground and demolishing them simply by holding the A or X button respectively and motioning the analogue stick in the correct direction, players can create new paths, move environmental objects or even block enemies from accessing a specific area.
The ability to control rock is only the first of four magic powers that players will command and is certainly a nice and gentle introduction. Players can only use their powers in very specific places, highlighted to instruct which power may be used. On the surface this may seem limiting, but the videogame’s puzzled have been design so that it matter more how you use the powers, as opposed to where and when. The challenge is not in the pressing of the correct buttons but in the assessment of which order is required in order to benefit your present situation. Just as the introduction offers a simple platform level to quietly inform the player of their abilities and limitations, so too does each new power upon its arrival. Subtly informative and yet encouraging at the same time, this is Max: The Curse of Brotherhood’s ethos.
Sadly, this high standard lf design isn’t maintained throughout. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood suffers from many occasions where a nice idea hasn’t been delivered as Electronic Theatre can only assume it was intended. There are far too many trial-and-error situations wherein any wrong doing results in instant death – both in the platform activities and the puzzle solving – and many also occasional inconsistencies in the difficulty curve. It’s a shame as for the most part Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is an incredibly enjoyable ride, but it is let down by these unnecessary moments of frustration.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a surprisingly good looking title; far better than the screenshots on this page would suggest. It’s charming and colourful world features a number of pleasingly eccentric characters and great variety in it’s environments, and all the while – much like the simply wonderful Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons – each new challenge feels fresh and exciting, compelling the player to venture ever-forward. The voice-acting and musical accompaniment isn’t quite to the same standard, but still there’s very little to complaint about.
Despite being developed with the intention of launching on multiple formats, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood’s debut on Xbox One seems well placed. While it’s clear that the control system has been designed for easy adaptation to many other input devices it still handles well, and the visual design is noteworthy in that it can easily be scaled-down for implementation on other formats. An intriguing puzzle-platform videogame that proves to be considerably more addictive than you may think it could, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is an early highlight of the digital catalogue on Xbox One.