There was something both intriguing and appalling about Max: The Curse of Brotherhood when I first laid eyes on it. It looked as if there was some interesting platforming, but fairly ugly characters. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this game, as I’d never played it before on Xbox One or PS4.
Booting up the game, I was whisked into a fairly relatable tale of Max coming home to see that his younger brother, Felix, had been loudly and messily playing with all of his toys. Frustrated that he has to live with this, Max goes on the Internet to find a magic spell that will get rid of his brother. Much to his surprise, a portal opens instantly, and a giant monster hand takes Felix away. Having immediate regret over his actions, Max jumps through the portal.
The story in Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is fine, but I wish that the game did more with it. We never get to experience Max’s true reconciliation over what he did to his brother. What could’ve been a tale about the importance of having family despite their annoyances just turns into a platformer with about as much narrative depth as Super Mario Bros.
On the topic of platforming, here is where Max: The Curse of Brotherhood doesn’t quite deliver. From the first level, you understand that Max is very floaty to control. The problem with that is some segments in the game require precise reactions and platforming. Without the precise of controls of, say, The End is Nigh, I often died in ways that genuinely didn’t feel like my fault. Thankfully, there’s a nice checkpoint system in place to ease the frustration.
What the game does differently is in its gameplay is giving Max a magic marker that can draw platforms out of earth, vines, and branches to aid his quest. There’s a cute little story excuse as to why he acquires this ability, but it never goes above that.
It’s worth commending Press Play for attempting to add something new to the platforming genre, but it’s not without frustrating mechanics. Pressing a button to pull out the marker and then moving the control stick to specific spots is extremely slow, which becomes incredibly aggravating when particular segments force you to be quick. I died several times because the marker wouldn’t deploy soon enough, or in the right place.
The other issue that comes with this magic marker is the fact that you have to break all of your momentum in order to use it, making the entire game feel much slower than it actually is. There are some sections where you have to be smart and use each marker ability to form a platforming setpiece, which are fantastic when done well, but they’re few and far between. More often than not, you’ll just have to keep your eye open for one or two glowing spots to use your marker.
If there’s one thing that Max: The Curse of Brotherhood does really well, it’s the graphics. The 2.5D perspective really helps each unique location to stand out. It feels like an old children’s storybook, and it was a pleasure to look at. However, there’s a serious asterisk with that statement: the game wasn’t ported well to Nintendo Switch.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is fine in docked mode, running a fairly solid 30fps while maintaining the integrity of its visuals. The problem comes when you play it in handheld mode. Not only do the graphics take a hit, but so does the framerate. In handheld mode, Max is more difficult to control and the marker takes even longer to deploy. If you’re going to get this game, save yourself the trouble and play it solely in docked mode. At that point, though, you’d probably be better off getting the Xbox One of PS4 versions that support 60fps.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Max: The Curse of Brotherhood was provided by Stage Clear Studios for this review.