Developer: Press Play
Release Date: December 2013 for Xbox One, May 2014 for Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox One
Anyone with a younger sibling might find themselves drawn in (pun intended) when it comes to Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. The title character finds his younger brother Felix smashing his toys, and in a fit of annoyance, casts a spell found on the internet to get rid of his nuisance brother. In a move that’s reminiscent of the classic Labyrinth, a monster really does steal Felix away! Max takes off in hot pursuit, muttering, unsurprisingly, that his mother is going to kill him.
Thus begins the side-scrolling puzzle platformer that is The Curse of Brotherhood. Armed with a magically-powered magic marker, Max jumps, climbs, and swings his way after his brother. Along the way, the marker gains new abilities: drawing pillars of earth, tree branches, rope-like vines, pillars of water, and fireballs. Max uses these powers to get past obstacles and defeat the minions of the diabolical Mustacho, the villain who seeks to steal Felix’s youth for himself.
The mechanics of the marker are the most unique part of the game. Getting from point A to point B isn’t always obvious, which is where the marker’s powers come in. By creating (and destroying) items with your marker, you create platforms and ropes to jump to (or, in the case of the water spouts, be flung from) in your quest. With frightening monsters chasing you, you need to figure out where you’re going, and FAST!
The graphics of the game are phenomenal and almost cartoon quality. The voice acting is good as well, as Max occasionally provides verbal queues (“Up! Up! UP!”) as you scramble to safety.
Family Gaming Assessment:
There is a little bit of cartoon violence; some of Mustacho’s monster minions do meet unfortunate ends, but most of them are simply avoided. And, of course, Max’s younger brother is kidnapped by a giant monster, locked in a dungeon, and experimented on. That said, the E10+ rating seems appropriate, as the game is mostly about solving the puzzles of how to safely get from one side of the screen to another.
Sadly, this does not look like a game to have a child work the controls, simply due to it’s complexity. Certainly, having them there watching can be a boon (both to help solve the puzzles, and to laugh along when you try to make a jump and fail miserably), but if they do the driving, expect to be summoned for assistance for the tougher puzzles.
No reading is involved, but the puzzle solving aspects are significant. Sadly, the marker drawing is done via the control sticks, which can be a bit tough even for a grown-up. Still, this is a great chance for kids to work on their problem-solving skills; for puzzles that aren’t time-dependant, you can easily ask them for their opinions on how to get out of a sticky situation. The death mechanic is fairly forgiving; save points are frequent, so failing a particular puzzle rarely sets you back more than a few seconds.
Overall, this game is tough, but really fun to play and even to watch. At $12, it’s a fairly good deal for some light-hearted yet challenging gameplay (and quite a few achievements)!
Disclosure: Review code was provided to Engaged Family Gaming by the developer.