Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is the puzzle-platformer from Flashbulb Games that originally released in 2013 on the Xbox One before making its appearance on PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch in the years that followed. It’s the sequel to Max & the Magic Marker from 2010 and if the name didn’t give it away, the same protagonist is featured, Max.

Max’s younger brother Felix is playing in our hero’s bedroom, smashing some of his toys, this forces Max to look online for a way to get rid of his sibling. In some coincidence he finds a spell that will do the trick, upon reading out the words on screen a portal is opened, and his brother is kidnapped by a giant claw. What follows is the journey to redemption and getting his brother back.

It takes that typical sibling rivalry stereotype and presents it in a fun and somewhat thoughtful way, we all have been there, arguing with a brother or sister, but deep down we love them and want them to be safe. That’s what Max and Felix are all about and what they go through in this cliché adventure filled with fantastical locations and gruesome monsters.

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Without hesitation I can safely say this is one of the cleanest platforming games I have ever played. Hitboxes seem on point, movement is fluid and most importantly it is genuinely enjoyable to play, as opposed to many platformers which borderline on the tedious.

That being said, it can get frustrating later on with its increasingly difficult puzzles and platforming designs. For the first couple of chapters I remember getting a little cocky, thinking this is such a breeze, only to be hit in the face with a brick that has ‘reality’ written on it. There are numerous times in which I die at least four or five times before overcoming the puzzle. It provides a steady learning curve and ranges from novice to advanced levels of platforming and problem solving.

In terms of design, the levels have been crafted with so much thought and care, each area has its own feel and vibe with what comes across as varying biomes throughout the experience. What is most impressive is how every level is connected and flows like a good book or film. New enemies are constantly being introduced that require different strategies to beat, which does wonders for beating enemy fatigue and boredom, by changing it up and forcing you to think on your feet.

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The hook when it comes to gameplay is the magic marker, no, not a sharpie, but instead a marker that can interact with highlighted points throughout each level in a variety of different ways. It allows for creativity and actively encourages walking into each challenge with an open mind. I love the idea of this marker that is so versatile and important during your quest of trying to save a life, it’s whimsical.

Unfortunately, the visuals in terms of quality don’t quite hold up to the 2017 standards, specifically when playing on a tv, in handheld mode it looks right at home and is believable as a fresh, first release game. The beauty of the Switch is not to be understated in how many of the games look better on the small screen which just makes sense, but, this is a review of the game, not the platform it is on. Vibrant colours are used in a smart way to accentuate on the interactive points and make Max stand out against the background.

A specific level, The Sacred Pool is something I want to bring up.  I was just casually platforming along not a care in the world, traversing through a series of tunnels in a cave. During this I took notice to the sounds being produced, water droplets hitting the ground and causing a echo, the authentic, realism took me quite by surprise and I would notice these background noises more and more and appreciated these subtle immersion building effects.

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Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a classic yet modern feeling puzzle platformer that excels in providing a solid gameplay experience, perhaps the most important thing in a game from this genre. It features a satisfying gameplay hook and makes it fun to use your mind and solve puzzles. It hasn’t aged like a fine wine, but it’s far from aging like raw meat and includes clever attention to detail in terms of visual and sound design. Challenging at times, enjoyable always, that’s the Max way.

OVERALL: 8/10 – GREAT

Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin.

(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)

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