A magic marker can be a very deadly tool.
In 2010, Max and the Magic Marker was released on WiiWare by Denmark based developer Press Play. The inventive puzzle platformer let players wield a magic marker and draw anywhere on the screen. The game’s sequel, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, was a Microsoft exclusive for many years until Press Play was shut down in 2016. Press Play’s successor Flashbulb Games and Stage Clear Studios have teamed up to bring the game to the Nintendo Switch. Player’s will at times be confounded by some of the tougher puzzles, but overall Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a very smart and unique platformer that feels right at home on the Switch.
The story is very simple. Max has a younger brother named Felix who is always getting on his nerves. Using a search engine on his computer, Max finds a magic spell that promises to get rid of Felix. Max reads the spell, which opens a portal to another universe from which a claw emerges and grabs Felix. Max quickly realizes he’s made a mistake and jumps into the portal to save his brother.
The game features 20 levels spread across 7 chapters. At first, Max must traverse the strange new land using just your standard platformer controls. Max can climb ladders and vines, push stones, and crawl into tight passageways. Things become a lot more interesting when Max finds the first of many upgrades to his magic marker. The first upgrade allows Max to raise platforms out of specially marked areas that glow orange. As you progress through the game and gain additional upgrades, you’ll notice many additional glowing areas, which each have a specific color corresponding to the specific marker power you can use. Additional powers you gain include the ability to draw vines, branches, water streams, and fireballs.
When wielding the magic marker, players have the choice between conventional controls or utilizing the Switch touchscreen. At the start of the game, I would usually use touch controls to draw vines and branches, but found that my inputs didn’t always register exactly as I wanted. The conventional controls, which have you hold the ZR button to enter the magic marker mode worked flawlessly. It’s nice have the touchscreen as an option in undocked play, but drawing with the analog stick felt more precise.
Even in the early chapters, the game can be quite difficult. There will be certain puzzles that may stump you for a while, but it’s always fun finally figuring out an inventive solution. The game world is also filled with a number of collectibles. There are 75 evil eyeballs strewn about along with pieces of an amulet. The puzzles to find the game’s many collectibles are probably the most ingenious and may cause a few headaches. It’s also important to note that the game runs on the Unity engine and does at times have some substantial drops in the frame rate. While the frame rate problems are annoying, they don't interfere with the gameplay.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a very enjoyable puzzle platformer. The game often surprises you with the solutions to different puzzles and overall is a very rewarding experience. Those seeking out an interesting twist on the platforming genre will find a lot to love in Max’s latest adventure.