If there’s one thing you can say about most next-gen games that’ve come out so far, it’s that they kind of feel last-gen. Sure, they look amazing, and are fun in their own ways, but when you play such games as Ryse: Son Of Rome (my review of which you can read here) or Forza Motorsport 5 on the Xbox One, or such PlayStation 4 games as Knack or Killzone: Shadow Fall (which I also reviewed), you quickly realize they’re nothing we haven’t seen before.
And the same can be said for Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood, a puzzling, side-scrolling platformer for the Xbox One that’s good looking and engaging, but doesn’t do anything on Microsoft’s new system that couldn’t be done on their previous machine.
Made by Press Play, this sequel to 2010’s Max & The Magic Marker kicks off when Max comes home to find his little brother messing with his stuff, again. Going on the Internet to find a magic spell that will make the little brat disappear, he ends up creating a portal to another dimension through which a big, furry arm comes through and snatches his sibling. But before it closes, Max remembers the bro code and jumps through the portal after his kidnapped kin.
Like those aforementioned next-gen games, Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood is damn good looking. The rocks look practically photorealistic, while the rest of the environment is equally picturesque. The game also makes good use of some cinematic camera tricks, while also dropping us into an alien world that recalls the weird one in the Borderlands games.
Though instead of running around and shooting everything that moves, Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood instead has the titular kid doing lots of running, jumping, and even a bit of climbing and swinging on vines like he’s a junior Lara Croft.
But the kicker is that Max also has a magic marker that, thanks to a kindly witch, is actually magic. With it, he can alter the environment. For instance, he can raise columns of dirt out of the ground he can then use as platforms to get to some out of the way places. He can also control how big these platforms get, or destroy them, though once one is built, he can’t adjust its height without taking it down first. He can also stand where the column will emerge, thus lifting himself up as well, though there are also times when raising a column will also bring up a rock that Max can push around as he sees fit.
Lifting and destroying these dirt columns plays into how Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood isn’t just a test of your reflexes but your mind as well, since you often have to figure out use these world-altering powers to get around or get past the world’s dangerous natives. At one point, for instance, you have to use platforms to get past a creature that Max can’t jump over, while later you use them to trick the aforementioned creature to take out another one of the locals.
The thing is, using the Xbox One’s controller to control Max’s marker is a bit awkward, especially later on when Max’s marker powers aren’t about him drawing straight lines. Especially since you hold the right trigger to call forth the magic marker, but then use the left thumbstick to move it around, which is rather counter-intuitive. Granted, using the right thumbstick to move wouldn’t work since, for instance, you have to hit the “A” and “X” buttons to build and destroy the columns, respectfully, but it seems like there could’ve been an easier way.
It actually seems — and I can’t believe I’m writing this — that Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood would’ve been better if it had you using the Kinect controller, maybe by lifting a finger to raise a dirt column and swiping your hand to destroy it. Though it also seems like this game would also have been good on the WiiU, where such motions would’ve been handled by that system’s touchscreen.
The awkwardness associated with Max’s magic marker is, however, just a minor inconvenience. Which, as it so happens, it what I’d say about any of the complaints I could make about Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood.
For instance, Max can’t double jump. Which — given how prevalent it is in these kinds of games — seems like an odd thing to omit. Doubly so when you’re in mid-air and realize you’re probably not going to make it to that ledge.
It also doesn’t help that Max has the same issue with inertia as Sackboy from LittleBigPlanet (though not to same extent, thankfully). Which is why you have to be careful when leaping from platform to platform, lest ye slide off the edge. Though, on the plus side, Max can grab onto ledges and pull himself up, something Sackboy never learned to do.
In the end, Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood isn’t the inventive platformer people were hoping for when the next-generation of gaming began a few weeks ago. But by being as good a test of your reflexes as it is your reasoning, it still ends up being a good bit of fun.