A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What 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.
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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- 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
- Price: $14.99
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Microsoft Studios
- Release date: December 17, 2013
- Genre: Puzzle
- Topics: Magic and fantasy
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.