Max and his magical marker have made an overdue yet unexpected appearance on PlayStation 4.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is the colorful and cute sequel to Max & the Magic Marker, a 2010 console, PC, and mobile release from developer Press Play. Soon after that game released, Press Play was acquired by Microsoft and joined Microsoft Gaming Studios. During their short-lived time with Microsoft, they released two games; Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and a platformer called Kalimba but were then closed down in 2016. Since the closure, many on the Press Play team formed a new studio called Flashbulb Games and have been able to release Max: The Curse of Brotherhood to a wider audience.
That's all for today's history lesson so now, let's talk about Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. Frustrated with his younger brother Felix, Max wishes that he would just disappear. Unexpectedly, a mysterious portal opens and a clawed hand reaches out and grabs Felix. Quickly realizing that he doesn't actually want his brother gone forever, Max jumps in the portal after him. Max arrives in a strange new world and is greeted by a massive blue monster who holds his brother captive. Not long after, that monster delivers Felix to a monstrous bird who flies him away towards the evil Mustacho's castle. Max has no choice but to journey to the castle and rescue his little bro.
Because Max instinctively jumped in the closing portal after his brother, he isn't very prepared for an adventure in this strange new world. Fortunately, he quickly meets an old enchantress who imbues her spirit into a magic marker that Max is carrying, giving it new powers. By holding the right trigger, the magic marker appears on top of the screen as if you (the player) were using it to interact with the game. The marker can be used to alter the environment by creating and destroying platforms, drawing and extending branches and climbable vines, and much more. The marker's magical abilities are essential in solving the campaign's platforming puzzles.
There are a lot of bizarre-looking enemies in this new land but Max doesn't really have any weapons at his disposal. You'll either need to jump over most enemies, lure them to be killed by a different stronger creature, or use your marker to make a path around the enemy so you can avoid it entirely. Many of the puzzles involve figuring out a way to get past an enemy and the puzzles never get ridiculously challenging but plenty of them will make you think. There's very little punishment for dying or making a mistake so you're encouraged to experiment with each puzzle and use trial and error to figure out the best solution. I always enjoyed solving Max's puzzles but don't expect to push your puzzle-solving prowess to its limits because the campaign is built to be accessible to a more casual puzzle-platforming crowd. That being said, you'll definitely die a few times in some of the later levels.
Two collectibles can be found while on your journey that add a bit of extra challenge: Mustacho's Evil Eyes and pieces of a lost amulet. These collectibles generally aren't too hard to spot but you'll usually have to solve a puzzle in a different way in order to acquire them.
Compared to the original Max & the Magic Marker, there's a bit less freedom in The Curse of Brotherhood. In the original, you could draw platforms for yourself in any location and were only regulated by how much ink you had in your marker. However, in this game, you can only interact with predefined objects and areas. This makes the puzzle solutions a bit more elegant because they're more specifically hand-crafted but it definitely removes a lot of freedom.
Visually, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a vibrant and colorful game. I was especially impressed with how detailed the 2.5D environments are and it's surprisingly one of the best looking 2.5D games that I've ever played. The character designs (especially humans) are a little blocky and unappealing but overall, it all generally looks great.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a colorful and excellently animated puzzle-platformer. The marker mechanics work very well and keep the campaign interesting throughout the six to eight hour adventure.
- + Wonderfully detailed environments and 2.5D art style
- + Clever magic marker puzzle mechanics
- + Challenging yet doable puzzles
- - Less freedom when crafting your own solutions compared to the original game
- - Human character designs (and voices) aren't terribly appealing