It All Brotherly Love
Xbox One Exclusive Proves Fun For All Ages
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Anyone who's ever had a younger sibling can remember days when you wanted to put your brother or sister in a box and ship them halfway around the world. These little gremlins always seem to know exactly the wrong thing to do or say at the wrong time in the wrong way. And yet, for as much as they can grate on your nerves, they're still family, and you'd do anything for them.
This is the premise of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. Except Max doesn't stuff his brother, Felix, in a box; instead, he utters a spell that sends his brother into an alternate dimension ruled by an evil warlock. Realizing that his parents may not be thrilled with this development, he follows Felix through the portal, armed only with his uncanny athletic ability - and a magic crayon.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood immediately thrusts players into the game, with no real back story to speak of. After following Felix through the portal that's opened in his room, Max finds himself in a lush, vibrant jungle, chasing a giant monster that looks like the offspring of a Furby and a giant Koosh ball.
A side-scrolling, puzzle platformer, the game tasks players with guiding Max through environments both above and below ground, leaping across gaping chasms, swinging from perilously placed vines and grasping jagged ledges.
After a short time, the game's key mechanic comes into play, introduced by a wise old woman who holds the power to manipulate the jungle. In a bid to help Max save his brother and rid the world of the evil Moustacho, a warlock with a crazy moustache, the elderly woman takes what may be the most illogical approach to solving the problem and turns herself into a crayon. (It may be a marker, but I would have at least sprung for a paint brush.)
Initially, this crayon-woman allows Max to raise and lower certain areas of the jungle, letting him access new areas and keeping him away from enemies. As the game progresses, players gain a number of other jungle-altering abilities, including the power to create branches, vines and water spouts.
Though a neat idea, none of the puzzles ever provide a real challenge, and they suffer from the fact that there's really only one way to complete each area. This is, in part, because players can only activate each ability in a set spot of the level. For instance, areas where Max can erect a pillar of earth glow brown, while spots to draw a vine glow with a light green. What's more, because Right Trigger activates the drawing mode, and the A button initiates the drawing process, you always place the right tool in the right place every time, with little room for variation.
The end result is a series of puzzles that, although clever at times, never deliver the same sense of accomplishment other puzzlers, such as Scribblenauts.
For completionists, there are some more difficult challenges in the form of Moustacho's evil eyes, plant-like entities with eyeballs that allow him to keep tabs on the jungle realm. While some are placed within easy reach, others require a bit more ingenuity to pick off.
But even with these small added challenges, the game never presents a real test of intellect. Furthermore, there's no punishment for dying, and each new area acts as its own checkpoint. The lack of consequence serves to discourage careful planning and promote a more trial-and-error-oriented approach to the proceedings.
While the puzzles may slightly miss the mark in terms of overall polish, the graphics score a bull's-eye. From the moment the game starts, the vivid color palette, detailed art work and fluid animations provide an astounding display of beauty, particularly for an arcade game. More than that, the lush jungle environment, musky underground caverns and expansive tree-top vistas continuously offer an impressive display of design.
For as good as Max: The Curse of Brotherhood looks, though, the overall presentation suffers from a seemingly absent story. The opening cutscene abruptly starts and ends with little explanation, leaving you to fill in the missing pieces.
Likewise, the audio in the game is excellent, but there's almost none of it. The comforting voice of Max's guide is both believable and engaging, but it happens far too little for it to impact the game as a whole.
Although it features a great premise, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood doesn't deliver on all fronts. When it does hit the mark, it shows excellent design and promise, but that quality isn't consistent throughout its design, meaning it gets 3.5 GIN Gems out of 5.
Matt Jones is an avid gamer and enjoys helping people solve all their gaming questions. : matthewJones10@hotmail.com.