Max is tired of his little brother playing with his toys and breaking them. Naturally, he searches on his laptop for a way to make the little bugger disappear. He comes across a mysterious chant on the internet (specifically for getting rid of pesky little brothers) and recites it, causing a portal to open in his bedroom. A giant monster arm then comes through the portal, grabbing up his brother and pulling him into the unknown. Realizing his mistake, Max jumps into the portal after his brother and embarks on an amazing journey to save him from evil.
That’s the story of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. The game, is a puzzle-platformer. You enter an area and must solve a puzzle before moving onto the next obstacle. Platforming consists of the usual running, jumping, climbing, and crawling. Puzzle solving on the other hand, revolves around the use of Max’s magic marker. This is the main mechanic of the game, and also what makes Max such a unique experience.
Soon after entering the mysterious world that your little brother has been pulled into, Max meets an old lady who absorbs her soul into his magic marker and imbues it with her powers. At the beginning, Max’s magic marker can raise up platforms from the earth, helping him get to areas that would be otherwise unreachable. The magic marker will gain a number of awesome powers as you progress further into the game, opening up more puzzles and possibilities. These include growing tree branches, sprouting vines, creating plumes of water, and shooting fireballs.
The world of Max is fantastical, with beautiful environments and charming creatures. Monsters range from really small to super large, and each creature is unique to the current environment. Interestingly, you do not fight these monsters. Max will need to trick his enemies in order to conquer them and move on. At one point in the game, I came upon two goblin creatures who were blocking my path. Nearby was a rather large cage, suspended above the ground. After getting the monsters attention, I ran backward toward the cage, waited until the goblins were underneath it and knocked it down to trap them inside.
Max is all about using the environment to your advantage. The magic marker is the only tool you will need, but you will need to pay close attention to your surroundings if you want to know how and when to use it. For example, there might be a place on a ledge to grow a branch, and another place closer to Max where he can spawn a vine. You can then connect the vine to the branch, allowing Max to climb up and reach the ledge.
Timing is also a factor at certain points of the game. Large creatures will often run after Max, resulting in a chase sequence. During these, players must quickly run and jump through the environment, spawning branches and vines while keeping Max in motion. If your timing is not perfect, the monster will catch up and grab Max, causing the chase to start all over again. Only quick thinking and fast reflexes can save Max from the huge monsters that chase him along the way.
I should definitely point out that Max is not an easy game, and many puzzles will not be solved on the first attempt. Honestly, I sent Max to an untimely death over a hundred times during my time with the game. There were a few places that felt hard, just for the sake of being hard too. One spot in particular was maddening. I had to swing Max from a vine and jump over a pit of spikes to reach land on the other side. I actually died so many times trying to make this jump, I started to wonder if there was something else I needed to be doing. As it turns out, it was just a really hard jump and I finally made it to the other side after dying about 30 times.
That being said, Max features a great checkpoint system and most of the time you will respawn right before the point where you died. Many of the puzzles can be hard, but not to the point where you will be frustrated enough to stop playing or rage quit. The latter half of the game will require Max to use all of the powers his magic marker has acquired, combining them in intuitive and creative ways. The game encourages experimenting, and you will definitely need to think outside of the box if you want to reach the end.
Max features six or so chapters in total, each with their own unique environment, creatures, and puzzles. There are definitely some brain twisters along the way, but you will never be stuck for very long. Most of the time, the answer will be right in front of you, resulting in those “A-ha!” moments that all great puzzle games are known for when you finally realize what needs to be done. Occasionally, the old lady who possesses your magic marker will provide hints too. I only wish she had done this a little more often, especially during a handful of the most challenging puzzles.
Overall, Max is a wonderfully enchanting puzzle-platformer. The art style is superb, and the mysterious world of Max is really something to behold. The game is bursting at the seams with vibrant colors and charming creatures. This is a game you can easily get lost in for hours. Completionists will become addicted to collecting the optional evil eyes and amulet pieces (some of which are hidden rather well). Even with the difficulty of Max, it remains a game that is fun for just about all ages. After seeing me play the game, my 9 year old son begged me to put it on his Xbox One. I went ahead and downloaded it for him, and he’s been playing ever since. There is currently nothing else quite like Max available on Xbox One. If you enjoy platforming and puzzle solving, or if you’re just looking for something fresh and fun – Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is easily worth the $15 price tag.