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Max: The Curse of Brotherhood



Great imaginative puzzles mixed with uneven platforming.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids can learn about solving problems and a bit about physics in this clever platformer and puzzle adventure game. Problems are contextual, forcing players to consider the game environment, their abilities, and their understanding of the physical world (how vines swing, how water pushes objects). They'll experiment with solutions, drawing objects into the world and seeing whether they can act as proper solutions. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood makes kids consider real-world physical concepts to solve problems within the game.

Positive messages

After banishing his brother to an evil dimension, Max feels guilty and sets out after him, teaching players to respect their siblings and act responsibly. He also proves time and again that there's no need to fight if you can outthink your opponent.

Positive role models

Max shows typical older-sibling frustration at the start of the game but turns out to be a caring and responsible brother who risks his life for his family. He doesn't fight his monster nemeses but instead uses his smarts to set traps and often flees when the odds are clearly stacked against him. He's authentically impulsive but a good kid overall.

Ease of play

The puzzles can be tricky, but they make sense. Hints sometimes pop up if players are struggling. The platforming, on the other hand, is occasionally frustrating and bordering on unfair. Some scenes will cause Max to perish perhaps dozens of times. Checkpoints are frequent and load times fairly short, but they may still prove aggravating.


Max doesn't fight his monstrous enemies, but they attack him. He can be hit by clubs, electrocuted by fireflies, and chomped in a giant monster's pointy-toothed mouth. However, there's no blood or gore; Max generally only falls to the ground, the scene quickly fading out. Max also can die by falling great distances, drowning, and getting tangled in spiky vines.

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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a platformer and puzzle game set in a fantasy world filled with sharp-toothed monsters big and small. Max doesn't fight these creatures but instead avoids and even flees them when necessary, sometimes setting up traps to keep them at bay. However, Max himself can be killed in many ways, including falling into traps and being clobbered by clubs. He can even be eaten by a house-size monster. There is no blood or gore; Max generally only falls to the ground, and the scene fades away. Away from monsters, much of the game is spent solving clever physics-based puzzles that involve drawing the right object for the situation. These puzzles let kids imagine, plan, and create solutions, working out cool and satisfying ways to get to higher ledges or cross dangerous gaps.

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What's it about?

MAX: THE CURSE OF BROTHERHOOD begins with mischievous tween Max angry at his younger brother for playing with his toys. In a fit of rage, he opens his laptop, queries the Internet for ways to make brothers disappears, and recites the magical chant that appears. To his surprise, it works: a portal opens and a giant purple hand plucks his brother out of the world. Horrified at what he's done, Max jumps in after him and begins a quest to save his endangered sibling.

Max travels over hills, through caves, and across water to find his brother, avoiding and fleeing various monsters along the way. His only tool is his trusty magic marker, a giant pen that can summon into existence specific things drawn near sparkling magic points, including branches, earthen pillars, vines, and water jets, most of which are governed by a generally realistic physics system. To find his brother, Max will need to learn how to use the things he draws into existence in clever and unusual ways, combining them to cross hazards and trap his enemies.

Is it any good?


Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a sequel to Max & the Magic Marker, but you might not have guessed it: it's a much more sophisticated game. Designed for Xbox One, it's graphically impressive. Environments are lush –- there’s a dramatically lit level set inside a system of caves that looks amazing –- and the monsters look a lot scarier, making it better suited for a slightly older audience.

Also, the action is more orchestrated. Puzzles are less free-form and generally require specific solutions. But they're still constructed in such a way as to allow for experimentation. Figuring out how to connect vines to branches and make objects roll over earthen platforms you create can be very satisfying. It's only too bad that the platforming is occasionally frustrating, requiring very precise, perfectly timed button taps. Expect to fail a lot. However, if you can stomach the 15 percent of the game that's aggravating, the remaining 85 percent will pay dividends.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about puzzle games. What makes a good puzzle? What makes a bad puzzle? How do you react to really hard puzzles? Have you tried taking a break to clear your mind so you can tackle them afresh?

  • Families also can discuss the difference between a game in which the player's character fights and one in which he or she doesn't fight but still can be attacked. What subtle or overt messages might lie within these games? Do you feel different playing a game in which you're an active combatant?

Game details

Platforms:Xbox 360, Xbox One
Subjects:Science: momentum, motion, physics
Skills:Thinking & Reasoning: logic, problem solving, solving puzzles
Creativity: developing novel solutions
Tech Skills: digital creation
Available online?Available online
Developer:Microsoft Studios
Release date:December 17, 2013
Topics:Magic and fantasy
ESRB rating:E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language

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