After E3, this was a game I was absolutely looking forward to. The trailer looked downright adorable and I do love me some platform puzzle gaming.
Max is a young boy with a little brother Felix who irritates him. So, Max goes the route most people would follow in the same situation. He goes online to find a curse to take his brother away by a force of malevolent evil and out of his life. He immediately noticed that this might be a poor idea and immediately went on a mission to save his brother. So, he enters a different dimension to undergo a quest for Felix.
The game looks gorgeous. Is it "next gen" enough? Hard to say, but the lighting and animation are well done and look great. The environments look phenomenal. Is it "bleeding edge" in visuals? Probably not, but the art direction is inspired and the feel of the world is second to none. The game runs great, has an amazing sense of scale (when it wants you to realize how small you are in the world, it will show you exactly how tiny you are in comparison to everything else) and the enemy design is terrific.
The game's platforming is spot on. Controls are tight. It's not as pixel perfect as, say, Super Meat Boy or a Mario title, but it is right up there. You will never die because the controls couldn't do what you want. And since you will die a whole lot, never feeling that it was because the game didn't work well enough is a good thing and helps, somewhat, mitigate the frustration. Because the last levels of the game get real, real rough.
The big gameplay thing is the use of your magic marker. You can build earth towers, branches, vines. water blasts, and energy blasts to help get you past an environment that will kill you all kinds of different ways. Briar patches will kill you. Water will kill you. Lava will kill you. All enemies will kill you. Long drops will kill you. And all of the above aren't terribly easy to avoid.
The game handles the difficulty curve expertly. You never feel like you're just blowing through the game, but if you play an earlier level, you will notice that it is far easier than you remembered it being. Your skills improve as you go along and learn how to fully use your assorted abilities. You become really adept at drawing vines to get around levels. You learn how to use the earth towers as well as possible. The game even has some really timing-sensitive events, but it is kind enough to slow down time to allow you to complete it.
Even the collectibles have a logical reason. You are seeking to restore the amulet of the woman who gave you your powers and to eliminate the eyes that serve as the surveillance tools of the arch enemy Mustacho. Collectibles with no point to them are a waste of time in gaming nowadays (see Ryse), but this was a nice change of pace. You get stuff for a reason which makes it worthwhile to get. Now, gameplay wise it makes no difference, but they provide some reason for it.
The bosses are also quite nice. You repeatedly face the giant monster that collected your brother. You can't really fight him head on as, well, he is hella massive and you are not, but you are given ways to save yourself and you do end up getting a chance to get your comeuppance. Mustacho is a decent final boss and the encounter works on a gameplay level. You don't have a total change of pace, just a need to carefully manage your position, movement, and usage some of your powers. They didn't go the Arkham Asylum route of a final boss encounter that has virtually no connection to how the rest of the game played and that is appreciated.
For $15, Max is one of the easiest recommendations out there. The game's 4-6 hours of gameplay are honed to a tee and well worth a buy. It is a blast from start to finish. It does look like a game for young kids...but, no, it's not close to a game targeted for young kids.