The Switch is not only a new and cosy home for indie gems, but has also given existing games a new lease of life, the latest of which is Press Play's platformer Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, which has just arrived to Nintendo's hybrid console after launches on both last-gen and current-gen consoles, as well as PC. The sequel to Max & the Magic Marker has gotten around a bit then, but how does it fare on this latest platform?
During a very brief introductory cutscene we're introduced to Max and his huge hair, who finds out that his brother Felix has been playing with his toys, and as all of us with siblings have no doubt done in the past, Max wishes for his brother to disappear. At which point a giant portal swallows him up. Max suddenly realises the weight of his actions, and as you'd expect runs off into this strange new world to show that he does really care about his brother deep down, which is why villain Mustacho's evil plan to steal Felix must be stopped.
Visually Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is probably best compared to an animated film that's not Disney or Pixar - you know, like Antz or Storks or something like that - in the sense that it has that 3D visual shine of a family film but lacks the same magic and wow factor of the big hitters. It looks quite shiny and neat even on the little screen of the Switch, but the character portrayal is dramatically lacking, with the bond between the brothers given not nearly enough time to breathe before we're whisked off into this epic quest to reunite them, the impact of which is dented by the lack of established connection.
Max doesn't really endear himself when we're in the game either, because if he's not gawping and making silly faces at things his only dialogue comes in the form of painful quips or exclamations such as "oh no!" when sliding down a slope. It all feels like it's meant to be resonating a lot more than it does, and although the target audience may well be younger children, a touch more personality wouldn't have gone amiss. After all, family-friendly doesn't have to mean watered down.
In terms of what you actually do as Max, this revolves around the old-school style of platforming; it's slow, deliberate, and all about thinking and jumping, not attacking. Puzzles are the order of the day then, and you do this using a magic marker that allows you to manipulate the world around you, whether that be to get to a higher ledge or to push a boulder down a slope and dislodge a bridge you need to cross, for example.
By introducing new abilities for the marker at regular intervals the game keeps things fresh, which is very much appreciated. The moving of pillars, for instance, gets replaced quickly by the ability to manipulate vines, or even to produce water flows. All of this keeps things interesting once the previous mechanic starts to feel stale, and in fairness, the cartoony facade actually hides some rather tricky puzzles... it's not quite The Witness, but there's still enough here to make you stop and think for a minute or two.
All of this is just a bit sluggish and slow to control though. Max himself moves at a rather leisurely pace, and isn't the lightest on his feet (don't expect the snap reflexes of your Mario-style platformers), and the movement speed of the marker itself can be a bit tedious at times too, making everything a touch more frustrating, especially when you have to redo sections or try multiple things out in order to progress.
The whole thing spans seven worlds, all with their distinct platforming tropes - desert, forest etc. - and lasts for around three to four hours, which for its price of £24.99 is riding the fence of value (it's much cheaper on PS4 and Xbox One, where it has been out for longer), but completionists can squeeze a lot more out of it by looking for all the extras in these levels to tick off, which again bring their own challenge as to how to find them and then access them.
Despite some glimmers of promise and some relatively fun mechanics, this isn't really going to establish itself as a classic in the platformer space, but that said it does perform well and has a lot to see if you need something to entertain yourself with for a few hours. Things are kept varied and diverse throughout, and if you've got a little one by your side to play through the game with, you may well have a blast rescuing Felix from the evil hands of Mustacho.