Score: 4 out of 5 stars
- Stunning visuals
- Unique abilities
Room for Improvement
- Unskippable cutscenes
- Too short
For as long as there have been humans, there have been sibling rivalries. The “annoying little brother” archetype is at the core of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood—in fact, it’s the premise that gets things rolling from the get-go.
Max is a snarky and confident kid, and his little brother, Felix, is exactly what you’d imagine. Max comes home one day to find Felix playing (and smashing) some of his toys, and Max decides he’s had enough. So Max hops on the internet and looks up a way to get rid of annoying little brothers, probably just as a means of catharsis. But, being the internet, he finds a magic spell and doesn’t hesitate to read it aloud.
For those of you with experience in random web searches that lead to magic spells, you know what comes next: a portal opens in his room, and a giant claw appears to take Felix away. Max, suddenly doubting his rash decision, dives in after his brother, but it’s too late. The monster carries Felix off, leaving Max stranded in a new world.
So begins Max’s adventure through a gorgeous fantasy world. His mission is simple: survive a complex series of puzzles and challenges while navigating a wide variety of environments. The evil sorcerer Mustachio has kidnapped Felix, hoping to inhabit the boy’s body and prolong his life. (It’s a surprisingly sinister plot, but the game does a great job of keeping everything comical.) It’s Max’s duty to cross the wilderness, find Felix, defeat Mustachio, and find a way home.
In a way, it’s a lot like the plot of a Pixar movie. Coincidentally, it looks, sounds, and feels like a Pixar movie, both in terms of style and quality. (Is there any higher form of praise for an animated experience?)
The Curse of Brotherhood is a sidescrolling platformer with a twist. After meeting…well, I’m not sure she ever gets a name. After meeting someone Max refers to as “Lady,” the course of his adventure shifts. Lady puts her soul into Max’s “weapon”—a magic marker—and guides him to sites of power throughout the world, teaching him how to defeat Mustachio.
Each of these sites grant Max’s magic marker a new ability, drawing anything from climbable vines to rideable streams of water. These abilities are required to complete puzzles, and as the level of difficulty increases throughout the game, I came to rely on these powers heavily. The game tries to help you master each one, and speeding through a level using one power after another is satisfying.
The game is fairly short, which is enjoyable yet underwhelming. (Personally, I’d have liked at least another few levels in the final stage.) The cutscenes and level design are all crisp and clever, but the death animations and puzzle transitions lack a “skip” function, which is a problem. In a game that is built around trial and error (and I had lots of errors) no one wants to watch the same mini-cutscene 15 times.
In a Nutshell
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood isn’t perfect…but what game is? Still, with very minimal issues, it’s a smart, stunning, and satisfying game. If you’re looking for a quick and relaxing puzzler (or a game that feels like an interactive Pixar film), your best bet is to join Max in his fight against the evil Mustachio.