Max: The Curse of Brotherhood originally came out on Xbox One over four years ago now. It was received to mixed reviews, with most critics praising its noble attempt at mixing a unique mechanic with traditional platforming. It’s the story of the eponymous Max, how he accidentally calls demons from another world to take his brother a la Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. What follows is a desperate rescue attempt that leads him on an epic adventure with the help of an actual “magic” marker. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a fun, beautiful, and unique puzzle platformer, but one that also doesn’t quite live up to its lofty goals. This is our Max: The Curse of Brotherhood review for Nintendo Switch.
One area that Max: The Curse of Brotherhood improves on with its Switch edition is the actual drawing and control of the Magic Marker. You see, Max can lift and shape parts of the levels he traipses about, and this feat is done with a literal Magic Marker. It works just fine to use the right joystick to manipulate the earth and other objects, but more control is offered through the touchscreen controls. In handheld mode, it’s great. On docked mode, its absence isn’t really felt either way, but the touch controls make the core idea of Max work all the better.
Visually, Max is stunning to look at, but also somehow awkward. I love its vaguely Pixar or Laika-esque animation, and its creatures are often a treat. But it also suffers from something I like to call “over-animation”. Like the devs at Press-Play were perhaps trying too hard to give it personality, and it comes across as forced. Still, Max has a kind of personality all its own and never comes off as generic. The problem lies in the monsters, as some of them seem a little rushed to completion or without proper finishing touches.
Max’s issues lie in the mechanic that it relies so heavily upon. When puzzles gel with the earth and plant-shifting ability of the magic marker, Max is a brilliant ride. When it doesn’t work, it’s more frustrating than fun. This is where the touch controls come in handy, and where Max: The Curse of Brotherhood gets it right on the Switch. Reviewers of the Xbox, PC, and PS4 versions lamented its lack of touch controls, but the Switch in handheld mode fixes this largely. Puzzles can still get hung up on the slightest of imperfections in what you draw with the marker, which can make playing the game more frustrating than it needs to be.
In the end, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a fun romp through an otherworldly adventure, but one that feels a little unfinished or unrefined. Still, if you’ve not yet played it on any previous platforms, the Switch version is the best of them all thanks to the touch controls. Clocking in around 10 hours, with a lot of life squeezed from the magic marker mechanic, Max’s hunt to save his brother is an adventure worth taking. Just don’t put it ahead of other platforming adventures like SteamWorld Dig 2, Sonic Mania, and so forth.