Max first appeared on IOS devices in 2010, with Max and the Magic Marker. The puzzle-based platformer introduced a unique mechanic, allowing you manipulate the environment by drawing objects to solve puzzles. The sequel, Curse of Brotherhood feels far more restrictive, but still holds up as a unique and innovative platformer.
A beautifully animated cinematic quickly sets up the premise. Max returns home from school, only to find his brother, Felix, playing with his toys. Max's frustration leads him to the internet, searching for ways to make his nuisance brother disappear. Then suddenly, a portal opens, with a monstrous hand snatching Felix through it. It appears Max's wish has come true. This sends him on a rescue mission, as he ventures across dangerous and beautiful worlds in search of his brother.
To begin with, Max TCOB seems like your average platformer. The prologue sees you slowly trotting across the screen, jumping, climbing and sliding throughout the environment. Soon as your acquainted with the magic marker, that's when you realise how innovative it really is. At first, the marker grants you the ability to pull up earth pillars. These can provide useful stepping stones, allowing you to traverse steep falls, quick sand and other environmental hazards.
As you progress, new abilities are gradually introduced. Before you know it, you have the power to draw lines, which can provide vines and branches, helpful for elevating to higher ground. A limited resource of ink is where the challenge lies. For example, figuring out the length or shape of a branch, or height of each pillar.
The innovation doesn't end there, though. Eventually, you can snap off branches, then drag them to another platform. There's also instances where you must create vines, then use them as boats to float across a river. The creativity keeps on coming, and figuring out how to utilize each power is a complete joy.
The controls are simple, but floaty. Holding down the RT and A button, combined with the left analog stick allows you to draw. It's responsive enough, but can be rather troublesome at times, especially in the fast paced sections. For instance, you may be outrunning a monster, then required to quickly build a pillar before it reaches you. Whilst another section could be trouble-free, with slo-mo sections triggered to provide enough time for using the marker.
The monsters also provide a fun challenge. There's no attack button, so you have to find ways of manoeuvring past them, or lead them into traps. These moments do feel inconsistent, and are few and far between. Yet, they do make a nice change of pace,
and are fun to tackle.
Max TCOB is a beautiful and creative platformer for Xbox One. The controls can be bothersome, but there's plenty of innovation, challenge and charm that should have you returning.
Reviewed on Xbox One