By: David Tavernier
If you grew up in the ’80s you might remember a film directed by Jim Henson called Labyrinth. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood (or Max for short) is very much a modern reboot of that classic. Max, furious with his little brother Felix, decides to try a magic spell that he finds online in order to zap him away. Unexpectedly, the spell works, and the villainous Mustacho shows up to abduct Felix, informing Max that if he doesn’t save Felix in time, he will inhabit his brother’s body to become young again.
Shortly after beginning to chase Mustacho, Max meets a mysterious old woman who gives her magical power to provide Max his only weapon, a magic marker, which enables him to put up a fight against Mustachio and his minions. What ensues is a cheap-in-cost and semi-innovative platformer that should please novices and die-hards alike.
The controls in Max are very simple and easy to get used to. Max is easy to move about from platform to platform. He moves quickly up ladders and can hang on to ledges with a breeze. Max’s special weapon, a magic marker, can be used to create destructible pillars of rock and destructible vines that can be used as bridges or as climbable objects. Later on, Max can create tunnels of water that can be used to quickly sail from platform to platform, and he can shoot missiles from purple turrets in order to kill enemies and destroy sections of the environment.
Executing all of these special moves is easy and intuitive, so when you die in The Curse of Brotherhood it doesn’t feel like you’ve been cheated by frustrating controls. Usually it is simply your own fault because you didn’t react quickly enough or you made the wrong move with your magic marker. Max’s controls are very much “invisible” in that most of game you will not notice the existence of any control problems, and that is a very good sign for any platformer.
GRAPHICS / SOUND (4/5)
The graphics are pleasant to look at, although some areas look less impressive than others. The last boss in particular looks gorgeous, as does the surrounding final stage. There is also an area that takes place in pitch black caves where you have to use your special magic marker to light your way, and this stage’s real-time lighting makes this part look much better than preceding areas. Part of the fun of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is progressing from chapter to chapter, each of which has its own unique look. You start out in a dusty wasteland and travel through forests, caves, water levels and fiery dungeons among others. In this way, making progress has its own visual rewards.
The music and sound effects in Max are pleasant to the ear. For instance, the music during the forest stages is a pretty melody on the xylophone, and in the background you can hear ambient noises such as the cheeps and caws of birds and the cracking of falling trees and branches. Also, the cave levels are eerily silent, and you can see the yellow eyes of critters in the dark and hear their squeaks and calls. The voice acting is also well done, although there isn’t much of it. Each character has a suitable voice, from Max’s inquisitive yet courageous voice to Felix’s endangered calls for help. All in all, Max’s graphics and sound are just as smooth and entertaining as the game’s controls.
The gameplay in Max is standard platformer fare but with its own innovations. As mentioned, the major gameplay innovation is the ability to create objects with Max’s magic marker. Often you will encounter pits that are too deep to jump, so you’ll have to create swinging vines near the ceiling that you can use to traverse them.
You’ll also be asked to link several magic marker creations together in order to make progress in the game. For instance, you can attach swinging vines to stiff vines in order to traverse larger areas. Later on you can increase your missile’s range by shooting at a stiff vine and then using that flaming vine as a launcher itself.
Since your magic marker gains more and more abilities as you progress, the platforming gameplay will become increasingly complex as you proceed toward the final stages. This makes it quite rewarding to chain together all of Max’s abilities in order to make progress in the final stages of the game.
There are also sections of recurring boss gameplay where you have to quickly outrun Mustacho’s gigantic pet beast, who kidnapped Felix at the beginning and returns to terrorize you throughout the game. These sections are also quite fun, as you have to find the quickest route through the moving surroundings as the beast gains ground on you and wreaks havoc on the terrain in the background.
Often you will have to retry these scenarios several times, but not to the point that the game starts to feel cheap. Other than these boss sections, there are also some puzzles where you can get stuck. With some time these sections should become solvable. And fortunately the more troublesome puzzle areas are usually few and far between, so you shouldn’t have to resort to measures such as checking online for solutions very often.
Max‘s gameplay succeeds largely because it is a fun adventure into the unknown. Each area mixes things up enough so that it doesn’t feel repetitive; instead, each new moment feels fresh compared to what came before. This novelty makes Max: The Curse of Brotherhood a joy to play all the way through.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood clocks in at about seven hours, so its asking price of $14.99 seems reasonable. Hidden collectables, such as Mustacho’s evil eyes and the old lady’s golden talisman pieces, also give item collectors extra hours of gameplay. If you’re a fan of platformers and want to try an enjoyable and mostly unique take on the genre, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a good buy.