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50 Reviews

Max and the Curse of Brotherhood

On your markers, get upset, go rescue your brother

The first thing you'll notice about Max is that he jumps funny. There's an unsettling airiness to his leap, that makes you worry that The Curse of Brotherhood has fallen foul of the debilitating Little Big Planet Syndrome - the condition by which otherwise lovely games become as much fun as chewing a scarf. But don't worry - Max isn't a platformer that demands jumping precision, so it never interferes with the game. And by the the third chapter, you'll have gotten used to his peculiar arcs.

Another concern is that Max is something of an arsehole. We don't blame him for summoning a demon to steal his annoying little brother - we've all done that. But Max is the kind of kid that pulls an eyeball out of the ground and laughs "Nudge, Nudge!" He's the kind of tool who'll ring a church bell in a small village, and laugh "Wake up, little town!" What kind of arrogant dick gets transported to an alternate universe, and takes time out from saving his brother's life - the brother that he endangered in the first place - to sneer at sleeping provincials?

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But Press Play is clever, see. I suspect that the team has made Max this unlikeable to take the sting out of his many deaths. While Max doesn't share the graphical morbidity of Limbo, death comes just as quickly and easily in this cartoon world. And while you felt a twang of pathos for that featureless, blameless Limbo child, Max could die a thousand times, and I'd laugh more heartily with each fatality.

Max's Magic Marker has had a makeover. In previous games, it was more of a free-flowing tool, letting Max draw bridges and staircases wherever he liked. In The Curse of Brotherhood, the Marker can only be used to interact in certain ways with highlighted objects, allowing Press Play to develop much more manicured puzzles.

In the first chapter, for instance, you only have access to Earth Pillars. If you see an orange swirl on the ground, hold the right trigger to produce your magic marker. Then, drag a tower out of the soil with the A button, and smash it with the X button. Your powers are extraordinarily simple at this stage, so it's impressive how Press Play keep the puzzles fresh for three levels, interspersing them with chase sequences and enemy encounters. Max's weaponless fragility means that you'll have to avoid combat, or use the tools of your enemies against them. It's less Limbo, and more Oddworld - a similarity that extends to the wonderfully off-putting enemy design and animation.

Reach chapter two, and your pen will learn how to draw vines and branches. Draw a line from a green swirl to produce a thick, clamber-able branch - you can snap this off and drag it around, if you need an impromptu bridge or boat. Vines add another spot of physics-related intrigue - you can attach them to branches, pillars, and blocks. This is where the game opens up, puzzle-wise, and Press Play explores the options brilliantly.

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The essence does seem slightly limiting. Every point from which your pen can draw is fixed in its purpose and radius, which does mean that most puzzles signal their own solution. If you see a branch point just within linking distance of a vine, for instance, then chances are you're going to have to join them together. But thanks to the tactile physics, the lack of difficulty doesn't make the game any less satisfying in execution. Besides, there's an optional extra layer of challenge - 75 evil eyes and 18 amulet shards are spread across the seven chapters, most requiring you to think about the locations in a more thorough and nuanced way.

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