Max is your typical late-80s/early-90s video game or cartoon hero. He’s an adventurous young boy, colorfully drawn to life with a an oversized golden mane and a t-shirt that bearing a prominent reminder of the letter his first name begins with. He lives in a picturesque home in a neighborhood that is presumably full of residents who don’t know the meaning of the words “overcast” and “precipitation.” At the start of his adventure, a monster arm that’s more adorable than scary reaches out of his closet and nabs the little brother whom Max had just been fighting with. This event signals the beginning of an adventure that will see Max running through bright and varied environments and jumping over obstacles in his path.
But this isn’t the late ’80s. Nor is it the early ’90s. This is 2013. And in 2013, game and cartoon characters have guns. Usually big guns. Take, for example, one of XBLA’s most recent releases, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Ubisoft’s ’80s love letter sealed with the blood of the titular dragons went so far as to give the player a minigun. Max: The Curse of the Brotherhood, however, does nothing of the sort.
“One of the things that is very appealing about this game is that Max isn’t armed with a minigun or a samurai sword, but he has this ability to control different kinds of materials that are in themselves not very dangerous,” says Mikkel Thorsted, studio director of Press Play, the developer behind Curse of the Brotherhood. “Basically he is armed with his imagination and wit, so basically when you encounter danger you have to outsmart the villainous henchmen. You have to outsmart them and lure them away, and stuff like that.”