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Review

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • XONE

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review

Markedly competent.

Sometimes being pretty matters when you're a video game, and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood demonstrates that point perfectly. It's a typical platformer, competent but largely unremarkable. Basic running and jumping sequences are supplemented by interesting puzzles and an unsurprising slew of collectibles, but none of it ever comes together in a way that makes a truly favorable impression. Until, that is, you stop to admire the gorgeous visuals. Suddenly, everything disappointing starts to feel a little better, and the good moments are that much more uplifting.

The basic premise, as revealed in attractive cutscenes featuring voice work that thankfully manages to avoid ever feeling obnoxious, is as follows: you are Max, an irritable boy who comes home to his annoying younger brother, Felix. Annoyed by the lad's rambunctious behavior, you read aloud the words of a spell designed to make such nuisances disappear. As in the film Labyrinth, those words take almost immediate effect. Your sibling disappears through a void, and you jump in after him as regret over your irresponsible actions takes hold. Just like that, you've embarked on a journey across a treacherous wilderness. Your destination is the wizard Mustachio's castle, and your only weapon is a magic marker.

The story is no Excalibur, even if at several points you do pull items from various stones with Arthurian flair, and his inadequate means of self-defense makes the humble Max easy to root for as you help him navigate a world that seems to view him as either a snack or a pincushion. Cutscenes also prod you forward with the unspoken reminder that Felix's only real crime was being a normal boy, one who now is in grave peril thanks to you and you alone. It’s a time-tested story and the expressive characters are animated every bit as beautifully in the story sequences as they are elsewhere.

Max can crawl, run, walk, jump, and drag things, but that's the extent of his repertoire. He'd never get far without his precious writing utensil, which you must use liberally. Pressing and holding the right trigger suspends direct control of Max and brings up an image of the tool, which interacts with colorful pieces of the architecture at your direction. For instance, a dark-green node can extend to form a ledge, which you can then use as a foothold or sever from its base to produce a movable platform. An orange node betrays the presence of a stone column. The interactive pieces of nature have variable limits, signified by steadily draining supplies of ink. You must figure out how to make the most of each resource.

Cutscenes also prod you forward with the unspoken reminder that Felix’s only real crime was being a normal boy.

Mark my words: you'll want a ledge there, sooner or later.

As the game progresses, the marker gains additional abilities, and the solutions to puzzles gradually require additional steps. In later scenes, it sometimes feels as if you're playing a scribble simulator rather than a platformer. Levels typically consist of a series of open spaces wherein you must chain together a few environmental effects (for example, you might have to draw a vine and then direct a current of water so that Max launches at the proper angle to grab the plant life and swing across a chasm), and then you hop along a few more ledges or run along an unremarkable corridor to reach the next such challenge. The difficulty lies in figuring out what you're supposed to accomplish in those more interactive areas.

Max doesn't encounter a lot of enemies on his adventure, which is just as well. It's a pleasure to descend along a series of ledges protruding from the face of a roaring waterfall, admiring the lush foliage and figuring out how to reach the far side of each hazard. Checkpoint placement is typically generous, so that even a fall to your doom means short-lived frustration at worst. However, you come across numerous other situations that prove frustrating because they require quicker reflexes and more precise movement than the game readily facilitates. The worst such moments are chase sequences, which usually find Max fleeing from a giant troll or sliding along a series of crumbling ruins. If Max suddenly needs you to produce a ledge lest he tumble into an abyss, the marker often materializes in a location that is less than ideal for the task at hand. Hurriedly swinging it into position and then drawing a line in the desired pattern is not always a simple task, and sometimes the precise stroke that means the difference between sweet success and disappointing failure is difficult to discern.

The interactive pieces of nature have variable limits, signified by steadily draining supplies of ink.

No matter how beautiful Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is--and typically, it's very beautiful, with detailed plant life and pleasing light and shadow effects--the moments when you're forced to play through a particular scene several times because you didn't anticipate a surprise shift in the landscape are always unwelcome. Even when you know exactly what to do, you may come across instances where you have to make several attempts before Max jumps far enough and grabs a vine that he has barely a chance of reaching. It's all very doable in the end, especially with practice and patience, but sometimes the developers make you work harder for that elusive victory than is warranted.

Another concern is that the puzzles eventually wear thin because most of them become predictable. There's sporadic creativity in design for the campaign's full five to seven hours, such as when you have to figure your way around some nasty lightning bugs or some bomb-tossing goblins, but mostly you perform the same few rote activities with only slight variations. Aside from the aggravating chase scenes, a scavenger hunt for collectibles is your only respite. Max yanks hideous eyeballs from walls and ceilings that lie off the beaten path, and he gathers pieces of a cracked amulet. Each new stage offers a tally to let you know how many objects lurk within, and you can revisit areas if you miss something. However, doing so requires a repeat journey through a bunch of puzzles that lose much of their appeal once you know their solution.

Those slimy spores look friendly, but don't fall for the act!

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood benefits immensely from attractive art design, and that is supplemented by a variety of puzzles that are initially quite satisfying before finally wearing out their welcome near the end. Consider taking the plunge if you're itching to dive into another pretty platformer, but otherwise you're probably better off waiting for a different curse to come along.

The Good
Lush environments
Initially intriguing puzzles
Max is an appealing star in an appealing story
The Bad
Puzzles eventually grow repetitive
Action scenes sometimes require too much precision
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Jason Venter has vicariously run, jumped, crawled, and climbed his way through more worlds in peril than you'd care to know about, but he still managed to rack up more than his fair share of stumbles in the six or seven hours he spent clearing Max: The Curse of Brotherhood.

Discussion

21 comments
oflow
oflow

Just finished the game last night I'd give it a 7.5 its got a few funny/creative parts.  I'm not a platformer fan but this game kind of forces the action a lot (the ground collapses or a monster is chasing you) which automatically gives you the incentive to keep playing.

eLite0101
eLite0101

I became already bored watching gameplay on youtube, not to even thinking trying it. I want Conker`s Bad Fur Day 2, not this "family friendly" "gay friendly" "safe play" waste of time!


MigGui
MigGui

I feel the review put a mostly favorable light, and was kinda shocked with the score. it doesn't match the review. reading, it seems the author would give at least a 7, maybe even an 8 (heck, who decided against half point scoring?), and was really surprised at the 6.

uglypinkmoose
uglypinkmoose

hmm looks like I would like it..... hell the visuals alone make it a must try 

kuu2
kuu2

"However, you come across numerous other situations that prove frustrating because they require quicker reflexes and more precise movement than the game readily facilitates. The worst such moments are chase sequences, which usually find Max fleeing from a giant troll or sliding along a series of crumbling ruins. If Max suddenly needs you to produce a ledge lest he tumble into an abyss, the marker often materializes in a location that is less than ideal for the task at hand. Hurriedly swinging it into position and then drawing a line in the desired pattern is not always a simple task, and sometimes the precise stroke that means the difference between sweet success and disappointing failure is difficult to discern."  


Sigh.......Yet another journalist that did not grow up playing games and this is their job and not their passion.  Gamespot it is easy to teach someone how to write a story it is impossible to teach someone passion for their profession.  Max TCB is one of the easiest platformers I have played and to say that the game is frustrating or difficult is hilarious.  Please start hiring video game enthusiasts instead of journos.  I can teach any monkey to write a readable article and I am sure you can as well.

prats93
prats93

Yet another average Xbone game, lol.

Gledfreitas
Gledfreitas

Reviewers are wanting to appear or earning a huge money by the sony, or will like to play games that do everything alone??? only say one thing, I do not need mediocre reviewers to decide on which game to buy but reviewers need us to continue to have their jobs. It is more than clear that created a conspiracy against the Xbox One, but get ready because if there is someone who is selling lunch to buy dinner, this one is a sony.

nparks
nparks

I thought it was a pretty fun game.  Worth the price of admission.

flameon12346
flameon12346

I would be so mad if this game was only for Xbox One. So glade I have a 360 and it for it too. But the game look like it doesn't offer too much either.

robbiejones
robbiejones

i remember seeing this on e3. Good on them for making a decent platformer!!

elementonly08
elementonly08

Wow Gamespot better late than never. I loved Max, not trying to defend it, just saying. If you have a Xbox One give this game your money it is worth it.

Heil68
Heil68

@kuu2 

You sound upset that the 2 downloadable games for the Xbone flopped in scores. Just play the games and enjoy them. Score is arbitrary. 

ravenbeast
ravenbeast

@prats93 i own ps4 as well but i havent found anything special or beyond average in its market ...

Ahiru-San
Ahiru-San

@prats93 like the ps4 had above average games all over… oh yeah not to mention the infinity of exclusives that aren't ports or "HD" makeovers.. oh yeah… riiiight...

ftjx
ftjx

@elementonly08 this game does seem to be more popular with Xbox One owners than with several of the major press outlets. I've been following the reviews on the major sites and judging from the comments, people seem to like the game more than the reviewer. Looks like a recurring trend to me.....

mikz_nyc
mikz_nyc

@Heil68 @kuu2  Oh please you PS4 fanboys do the same thing when your games get low score,say it ain't so

kuu2
kuu2

@Heil68@kuu2Please, he talks about difficulty in a game where there is minimal difficulty.  This is hardly a platformer that requires a lot of skill.  I didn't mention the score at all I attacked his ability to actually play games at a high level.

dalepickstock
dalepickstock

It's prob because it's one of the few games on the system at the mo. I personally enjoyed the game but was quite frustrating in places specifically the chase scenes. Glad it wasn't £40/50 price tag otherwise would have been disappointed

NYTed
NYTed

@ftjx @elementonly08 Spot on! I've noticed this as well. I've seen similar comments about Ryse and Killer Instinct on social media that exceed the reviews posted on the internet.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@dalepickstock 

Yeah, I agree on that. It's the euphoria of the console launch that have less jaded gamers raving about the launch titles.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood More Info

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  • First Released
    • PC
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a colorful 2.5D platformer where you take on the role of Max, a young boy who wishes for his annoying little brother Felix to be whisked away by unknown evil forces. Armed only with a marker and a hope of undoing what he has just done, he sets out on a perilous journey across deserts, eerie lantern-lit bogs, ancient temples, and lush green forests to get his younger sibling back.
    7.7
    Average User RatingOut of 44 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
    Developed by:
    Press Play
    Published by:
    Microsoft Game Studios
    Genres:
    3D, Open-World, Action, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Fantasy Violence, Mild Language