Having grown up with two younger brothers, I can empathize to Max’s annoyance at his younger brother Felix fiddling with his stuff, making a mess of his room, and seeming to exist only to get on his nerves. I might not have gone so far as to enact an occult rite and banish my brothers to an unknown fantasy world (though I might have wanted to at times), but at least Max realizes the gravity of what he unintentionally did pretty fast and sets off to save his brother from a creepy old man who intends to steal his youth, Gruntilda the Witch style.
A sequel mostly in name and lead character only to Max and the Magic Marker, The Curse of Brotherhood almost entirely ditches the free form drawing that made up the core of its predecessor, opting instead to streamline its mechanics and add a significant amount of cinematic flair, coming together in a far more focused, inspired, and varied experience.
Though it is still referred to as a marker, Max’s tool of choice has been reworked into a powerful instrument with which you can now control various elements in order to help Max traverse through levels. The implementation of this still bares a resemblance to Max’s marker of old, allowing you a small amount of freedom to direct elements into specific shapes and paths, but it’s far more natural and embedded in the experience than before and works well within the constraints of a controllers precision, rarely requiring a great deal of precision and only occasionally imposing any sort of time limit.
The Curse of Brotherhood has rather obviously been designed so as to rarely frustrate the player, or tax them with tricky platforming segments or puzzles, and this simplicity and hand holding is in some ways a bit tedious when the answer is almost always immediately apparent, but overall I actually found the breezy pace rather refreshing. It allowed me to appreciate the gorgeous environments and enjoyably cliched story without many threats or pauses as I got stuck. It provides just enough stimulation to remain engaging, but is accessible enough that it’s a game I could feel confident recommending to a younger player or a parent wanting to play with their child (which is a disappointingly low number of games).
At around 4-5 hours it’s a fairly brisk adventure, but I never felt as if something was cut or missing, nor did any moment feel like needless filler. Every segment is interesting and important to the game, and this consistency and constant variety makes it easy to wind up playing through the entire thing in but a few sittings. That’s not a slight against the game by any means, but a complement to its excellent pacing and inspired level design.
The handful of moments that stand out as poor in my mind are actually those near the end which begin to ask more of the player than before, and the slightly awkward controls have a bit of trouble keeping up. The end boss fight also proved the most disappointing part of the game, with an uninspired encounter that ups the difficulty just enough to be frustrating and would have ended the game on a rather lackluster note had it not been for the charming cutscene immediately following.
It’s probably not an understatement to say I was rather taken aback by how much I ended up enjoying The Curse of Brotherhood. Its beautiful scenery pulled me in, and the leisurely platforming and puzzle solving kept me there throughout an experience that continued to surprise me the further I got in. Some may scoff at the low difficulty, but in terms of simple fun and creativity I haven’t played something quite as nice for too long.