Max: The Curse of Brotherhood Review – Switch
+ Ingenious use of the Switch touch-screen controls.
- Performance gets a little bogged down in particularly complex scenes.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a puzzle platformer game that caught me off guard from the very beginning and continued to impress long after the introductory scenes. Usually, a game will give you a pretty good sense of what’s to come right out of the gate. What you see is what you get. In Max, I found myself continually being amazed and surprised by it. What starts off as a seemingly overly simplified platformer game with some jumping puzzles and stunningly beautiful graphics with a pretty cool story hook, quickly turns into a much more complex and surprising puzzle game with a much more in-depth mechanic of tackling the various obstacles that are thrown in your way.
You play the game as the titular Max, who has somewhat accidentally banished his kid brother Felix into another dimension full of magic and monsters. Realizing that this is going to get him into serious trouble with his parents, Max follows his brother into the other dimension to rescue him. You start off your adventure by trying to escape a giant monster by jumping from platform to platform and swinging a la Tarzan by vines across wider chasms. Thankfully, the game has a very generous checkpoint system which never makes you backtrack very far when (not if) you fail a particular portion of the game.
After a little while, you make your way to a giant tree that you climb, where you are given a Magic Marker that, either using the controller, or the touch screen of the Switch when in portable mode, allow you to interact with the environment around you. At first, all you’ll be able to do is raise earthen platforms out of the ground to varying heights, allowing you to jump to locations you couldn’t otherwise reach. As you progress through the game, however, you will obtain upgrades to your Magic Marker, which gives you more powers, such as growing tree roots and vines. The best thing is that these things react dynamically to the surrounding environment as you would expect them to, with proper weight and gravity, as well as react to each other. You can connect a vine to a root, for example, to create a kind of rope bridge.
This type of physics-based problem solving using realistic principles and fairly simple mechanics took a beautiful, enjoyable game with an endearing story about a boy trying to save his brother, and, for me, launched it up to the same level as other great puzzle games like Portal that give you simple tools and force you to look at the world in a different way in order to complete an otherwise impossible task in unique, interesting ways.
The only thing that lessened my impression of the game and prevented me from giving it a perfect score was the fact that the game seemed to lag during portions of the game where a lot was happening on the screen at once. I think that this is most likely just showing the limits of the processing capabilities of the Switch itself, so it’s hard to fault the game for looking too good or being too advanced for the system that it was ported to. And while these moments of lag were never bad enough to ruin the experience of the game, it was noticeable and frustrating at points.
Other than the slight optimization issues, the game is amazingly beautiful. The sense of wonder that the story instills in the player will excite and enchant players of all ages. And the puzzles, though their solutions are sometimes not immediately obvious, are never so hard as to make the game feel impossible. And, as I stated before, the checkpoint system is very helpful, automatically saving at almost every possible place where a new challenge arises, allowing you the freedom to fail without worrying about having to repeat large portions of the game over again.
On the whole, I greatly enjoyed the experience of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and would recommend it to any gamer who was looking for a fun and interesting puzzle game with a well-written story. The addition of touch-screen interaction, allowing you to control the environment with your finger by dragging it across the screen, was enough for me to say that the Switch version of the game is probably the most interactive of any available.