Max: The Curse of Brotherhood review

  • Inventive puzzles
  • Challenging, not punishing
  • Gorgeous visuals
  • Controls are imprecise at times
  • Not much guidance

I stand alone at the edge of a wooden plank, staring off into the distance at two hanging vines and a tree branch; a massive chasm yawning below me. Farther away, a rope beckons, begging to be climbed so I can move onwards and upwards. At the moment, though, I have absolutely no idea how to get there. So I experiment; I connect one vine to the branch then chop it at its root. No luck. Next, I re-draw the vines to be hooked together, then cut one to swing near me. Nope, not working. Frustration begins to bubble beneath the surface, until a new idea dawns. Draw a new vine here, hook it to a branch there, make it swing as such, and voila! Feeling sufficiently brilliant, I hop onto my makeshift, Tarzan-esque contraption and move on to the next challenge.

Such moments are common in Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. Playing as Max--a rambunctious young boy who’s accidentally caused his meddlesome little brother to be carted off to a fantasy world laden with monsters and mystery--your only weapon is a magic marker that can manipulate the environment to navigate difficult pathways and conquer complex problems. Featuring devilishly creative puzzles and intense action sequences set in gorgeous environments, The Curse of Brotherhood is a platformer that's just as challenging as it is charming.

Max’s magic marker is the fulcrum of the story. Over time, it gains the ability to move the earth, create tree branches and vines, power plumes of water, and shoot fireballs. All of these abilities combine wonderfully with one another, giving Max just enough tools to move from one tough spot to the next, even if it’s not readily apparent exactly how to make that happen. The puzzles are punctuated by moments of sheer terror, as an array of fantastical monsters chase Max through ever-changing environments. Nearly perfect timing is required to avoid catastrophe. Each area has its own unique, hostile creatures, which take on the characteristics of their environment, such as a lumbering rock beast in the desert and fire-spewing giant inside a volcano. The penalties for falling into their grasp include being swallowed whole, crushed like a bug, or burned to a crisp. Luckily, Max’s constant deaths are never bloody or disturbing; that would damage the overall charm of the game.

Surviving those encounters isn't always easy. You'll inadvertently send Max to a painful death dozens of times throughout The Curse of Brotherhood. Missed jumps, slips on spiked animals, stumbles into molten lava, and 1,000-foot falls into gaping pits are commonplace. Thankfully, a superb checkpoint system means you never feel punished for such misadventures (although Max likely begs to differ). In fact, it invites experimentation. During later chapters in particular, powerful combinations of all the marker’s abilities are required to vanquish enemies. I found myself mixing and matching all sorts of combos to figure out just what to do. At many points I felt confused, but never got stuck for more than 15 minutes or so; the level of challenge was very well-balanced.

Above all, The Curse of Brotherhood is gorgeous. Each of the six main environments are lavish and bursting with personality. Vertical levels are particularly memorable--climbing to the top of a massive tree and the main villain’s castle are breathtaking at times--but they’re all distinctly challenging in their own way. What’s more, The Curse of Brotherhood invites multiple play-throughs due to the array of collectibles and Achievements.

There’s little to dislike about Max. Yes, there were a few moments when I wished that the controls could have been more precise when drawing branches or designing water plumes, but at no point did they ever let me down when it counted. It would have also been nice to get just a little bit more of an indication of what to do in more challenging areas; the narrator will occasionally toss out a hint but those are few and far between.

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a breath of fresh air that new Xbox One owners will be delighted to experience. As a charming experience from beginning to end--and one that can be enjoyed by all but the youngest members of your family--it hits all the right notes.

More Info

Release date: May 21 2014 - Xbox 360, PC
Dec 20 2013 - Xbox One (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Published by: Press Play
Developed by: Press Play
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Fantasy Violence, Mild Language

With gorgeous visuals, inventive puzzles, and a fresh creative take on the platformer genre, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a welcome addition to the Xbox arsenal.

This game was reviewed on Xbox One.




  • Doctor_Pancakes - December 26, 2013 3:32 p.m.

    Oh look, Xbox has ONE good game. I get the name now.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - December 27, 2013 8:17 a.m.

    At the end of the day, Battlefield 4 is still the best game on both consoles. You guys have your Killzone and mediocre mess called knack and we have Killer Instinct, Dead Rising 3, and the below average Ryse. Leave it at that. If you want to battle over which has the best exclusives, the Wii U is winner, for now.
  • hunter-payne - December 28, 2013 3:57 p.m.

    man I don't know about Battlefield 4...I can't remember a game that has been more buggy in my person experience than Battlefield 4..I've had my campaign just randomly be deleted..I can rarely get into a server to play online..i've had such a bad experience with it and such a great experience with CoD: Ghosts and Fifa '14..that either one of those is my favorite game thus far
  • Jackonomics2.0 - December 28, 2013 9:13 p.m.

    I haven't played Battlefield 4 yet so I cant say but I do agree with you that COD:Ghosts was Awesome
  • peter-cacic - April 9, 2014 9:03 a.m.

    lol you are crazy , I have both systems and in the past month the x1 has gotten 2 games the ps4 over 9 and killer instinct is a joke no story mode next to none character's at least we have a good fighter called injustice and also second son , dynasty warriors 8 xl , and the list for games coming is way bigger and more diverse than the x1 . I am regretting buying it now and I cant forget that in 5 moths of it being out it has had 3 price drops and stuff thrown in just to try and sell them because the ps4 is killing them in sales and in games that are out. Plus hiding everything behind a pay wall is pathetic like Netflix lol at least Sony does not hide stuff even the mmo can be played with out ps plus so keep reassuring your self because as a owner of a x1 I can admit the system is doing nothing good of late.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - April 9, 2014 10:31 a.m.

    Your just as much of a hack as Henry is, Killer Instinct is a real next gen fighter, you just have a stupid port. And frankly the game just got an update with Arcade Mode and currently has 8 characters and more importantly, more balanced than injustice will ever be. And besides we all have our preferences, don't be a dick about yours.
  • TucoBenedictoPacificoJuanMaria - June 24, 2014 5:24 a.m.

    Agree. Battlefield 4 IS the best game on both consoles with the best replay value and constant action. I own both consoles, so fortunately i can go back and forth when i get bored on one of them. I've recently started playing Dead Rising 3 again and just now realized how awesome that game is. I have yet to play Killzone so i cant say anything on that game, i will probably pick it up when the price drops to 20 bucks or lower. I think both consoles are awesome and cant wait to see what they have up their sleeves!
  • hunter-payne - December 28, 2013 3:55 p.m.

    really buddy? still trolling? time to move on...
  • shawksta - December 25, 2013 12:17 p.m.

    Nice to know it was great, might consider it
  • universaltofu - December 24, 2013 2:04 p.m.

    Ooh, a nice game to cap off the year with.
  • universaltofu - December 24, 2013 3:11 p.m.

    >.< but I guess not yet for 360
  • Crapgamer - December 24, 2013 11:24 a.m.

    Nice review! This game is so much fun, beautiful and inventive. If you have an Xbox One and like interesting platform/puzzle games you should buy it. It's only $15 and so much fun, and a pretty long game considering.

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