If you’ve grown up with siblings, there isn’t a time when you didn’t try to wish them away. For Max, dealing with his little brother Felix is a hassle and one day, in a fit of rage, Max used the search engine “Giggle” to find a spell that might take the nuisance away. Upon successfully completing the spell, Max, in a Labyrinth-like moment of regret, decides he doesn’t want his brother gone and launched a rescue. There’s no Goblin King in this tale, instead Max is dealing with the evil Mustachio whose purpose is to transfer himself from the old, raggedy body that he’s in now, into a younger, more spry specimen.
That’d be Felix.
Upon entering the world of Mustachio, Max is immediately met with resistance, as plants, animals, and the “other things” that live there are trying to ensure that the brave youngster never reaches Mustachio to stop the experiment with Felix. Max’s only weapon is the same magic marker used in Max and the Magic Marker, released in 2010 on other platforms.
Of course, when it’s described as a “magic marker,” it’s a literal expression. The marker that Max carries with him is really magic and allows him to manipulate the environment. Beginning with earth, but eventually controlling water, trees, vines, and even a bit of pure magic, Max sets off to find his brother.
Using the Xbox One controller isn’t easy, particularly when a mouse and keyboard combination seems like it would be easier during particular puzzle scenarios, but developer Press Play has mastered the art of timing, creating a constant sense of unease and the ever-present fear of failure. At each juncture, regardless of Max’s situation, there’s a way that you can screw it up, forcing you back to a checkpoint. Thankfully, checkpoints are plentiful and the loading times are unusually fast for the Xbox One.
Towards the middle of the game is perhaps the weakest structurally, with many puzzles requiring hurried decisions and advancement depending constantly on trial and error. Frustration can boil up, ending in many cases with turning the game off. It may be that some colors blend into each other, making some puzzles seem harder than they actually are, or it could be during the sequences where Max has to run for his life and fails, either way you will want to stop playing at some point.
After a few frustrating levels, the game comes to a magnificent conclusion, with Max being forced to implement the most unlikely of puzzle mechanics. It’s from that point on when you begin to see that the level design is brilliant. Using vines to swing from branch to branch, landing on pillars of earth only to be swept up in geysers of water that propel you up and around dangerous obstacles is as satisfying to watch as it is to accomplish. Puzzles come together in ways that you -- and even the developers -- didn’t expect. Difficulty is high, but by that point players will be comfortable enough with the mechanics that they’ll pose little problem. Timing will be your enemy, but patience you’ll discover a game that will be remember at the end of the year.
Overall Score: 9 out of 10