Publisher: Microsoft Developer: In-house (Press Play) Format: 360, Xbox One Release: Out now
Studios tend to build on past work by expanding upon what came before. Danish studio Press Play has chosen a less common route, instead refining the drawing core of Max & The Magic Marker into something tauter. Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood is a reimagining, then, one that casts out player creativity in favour of comparatively rigidly designed physics puzzles, but dials up its personality in the process.
After recounting a spell from the Internet to disappear his annoying younger brother, Max finds his wish granted by the evil Mustachio, who happens to require a vessel to replace his ageing body. Compelled by guilt, Max follows his sibling into a bizarre world filled with dangerous creatures and perilous ledges.
For the most part, Curse’s platforming is responsive, although jumping feels floaty. You’re rarely asked to make pinpoint landings, however, so clambering about the place is satisfying enough. You’re aided by the returning magic marker, this time inhabited by the soul of a friendly witch, capable of twisting the environment – at predefined points – to your own ends.
Over the course of the game, you acquire the ability to create branches, vines, water spouts, fireballs and pillars of earth, each of which can be summoned from glowing objects of a matching hue by holding the right trigger and A, and drawing with the right stick. Doing likewise with X instead severs or destroys creations. The five abilities interact with each other, too. Vines, say, can be attached to branches or pillars to extend their reach or provide a safety net. Fireballs can be used to ignite branches, which can then be dragged elsewhere and used as a second source of incendiary projectiles.
We profiled Max: The Curse Of Brotherhood developer Press Play as part of our recent Region Specific: Copenhagen series of features. You can read more about the studio here.
You might not be able to draw whatever you want any more, but Curse’s often ingenious puzzles are no less satisfying as a result. The game fares less well during its not overly frequent chase sequences, which force you to react quickly or suffer instant death, all compounded by occasionally stingy checkpointing. Leaping across platforms and drawing simultaneously stretches the controls beyond their comfort zone, and while Press Play sometimes mitigates this with slow motion, you’ll often find yourself repeating a sequence several times. It can also be hard to spot some of the points from which Max’s marker can draw if they share a colour with the detailed backgrounds.
These frustrations aren’t enough to derail a memorable and enjoyable platformer, however. The constant flow of new sights and well-thought-out puzzles that make up the bulk of the game provide more than enough motivation to see this rescue attempt through to the end.