If you were someone who grew up with younger siblings, there may well have been many times you found yourself wishing for them to disappear. That was certainly the case for me, especially at those times when I’d come in from playing in the park to then find the discs of my favourite games completely missing. Fortunately, no matter how hard I wished, my sisters remained safe at all times and there was never the threat of a portal to whisk them away to a dangerous new world. If that did happen though, I’d probably have found myself in a similar position to Max, the protagonist of one of the latest games to arrive on the Nintendo Switch – Max: The Curse of Brotherhood.
The story kicks off as Max comes home from a day at school to open the front door and find his toys spread across the stairs, and the sounds of joy emanating from his younger brother Felix in his bedroom. After finding his brother playing with his toys yet again, Max decides to look up a Giggle search on his laptop, for a way to make his brother disappear. By reading the passage that pops up on screen, a portal opens and a giant arm comes through to pull his brother in. With the guilt too much to handle, Max heads in to try and get his sibling back.
Upon entering the unknown world, Max meets a mysterious old woman who tells him of the evil lord Mustacho – the man behind the kidnap of his brother Felix – and how he will absorb his soul if you are unable to get to him in time. Before sending him off on his adventure to stop the mighty Mustacho, the old woman places her soul into Max’s magic marker, to at least give him a fighting chance on his journey ahead.
Whilst the story in place is a rather basic one when compared to many other games out there, it doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable and with some eye-catching cutscenes popping up and a great story pacing throughout the 6-hour adventure, there’s enough to keep you engaged till the very end.
A big reason is the fact that the game itself is a rather beautiful experience. With visuals reminiscent of a recent Pixar film, character design for both the protagonist and the enemies proving rather incredible, and some fantastic environments, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is certainly an aesthetically pleasing game.
As for the gameplay side of things, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is again very enjoyable, albeit a bit of a repetitive experience, with the bulk of the gameplay having players run through each of the many 2.5d physics-based levels solving puzzles. Most of these require the player to use Max’s magic marker to raise a new platform in order to reach the next area – picking up the many collectables in the form of Mustacho’s eyes, in the process.
None of the puzzles in the game are overly difficult and even as someone who usually struggles with puzzlers, I was able to get through without much of a challenge – at least in terms of puzzle difficulty. And thankfully, as you progress through the latter stages and unlock extra abilities that enable you to draw other things with Max’s magic marker such as vines, the whole experience starts to feel a little more exciting.
The thing that makes the game challenging however is the unexpectedly poor performance. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a platformer and with all good games from the genre you need to have responsive controls to ensure you can make the necessary movements on time. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case on the Switch and having already played Max: Curse of the Brotherhood several years back on Xbox, there are certainly some worrying signs performance wise, with control inputs often delayed. This makes basic platforming difficult and controlling Max in limited space areas – such as on top of pillars – rather awkward. Floaty jumps meanwhile prove a bit of a nightmare in certain areas.
On top of this, cutscenes also suffer with multiple scenes slowing down to the point where any engagement is taken away from what would otherwise be a fantastic title. Fortunately, the performance issues aren’t quite as prevalent when completing puzzles but it’s still a major irritation to see them present at all.
Whilst performance is an issue, the rest of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is just as enjoyable as it is on other platforms. The controls are rather simple in general too. However, with movement tied down to the Left Stick only rather than the directional buttons, A controlling Max’s rather floaty jump and the puzzle solving marker actioned with ZR and then a face button dependant on whether you are destroying or creating a new item, they don’t feel particularly natural and instead occasionally come across as irritating.
Although Max: The Curse of Brotherhood comes with some rather unexpected disappointments on Nintendo Switch there are still plenty of enjoyable parts too, with epic chase sequences and split-second decision making occasions popping up. Unfortunately, the good fails to outweigh the bad and with no additional modes to play through besides the story, and performance issues hampering the experience, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood fails to make such a memorable impact on Switch – especially when considering the price hike that accompanies it.
Massive thanks to: Wired Productions
Release date: April 2018 (Retail)
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review), Xbox One, PS4, PC