Despite Microsoft Studios aggressively pushing the digital distribution agenda with Xbox One, the number of digital-only first-party titles announced for the console can be counted on one hand. Crimson Dragon arrived alongside the new format at launch and soon after followed Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, the sequel to the award winning Max and the Magic Marker. Now the title looks towards release on Xbox 360 and PC, and Electronic Theatre has been hands-on with this second edition.
Despite being billed as an Xbox One title Max: The Curse of Brotherhood isn’t actually exclusive to the new console. Both Xbox 360 and Windows 8 versions are being developed alongside the Xbox One edition, and all three are expected to launch within the first quarter of 2014. It’s not yet confirmed whether both of these additional versions will launch simultaneously, but it seems likely that developers Press Play will want to capitalise on the ‘newness’ of the videogame by bringing it to the full range of Xbox branded formats within a similar timeframe.
As far as the gameplay is concerned, all three formats will likely perform the same. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a cleanly presented videogame but as it didn’t push the Xbox One hardware it’s unlikely to trouble the Xbox 360 too much, let alone the average Windows 8 PC. Instead it’s the puzzling that Press Play are investing in, with Max: The Curse of Brotherhood’s challenges taxing the player both dextrously and mentally. The videogame is suggested to be a puzzle-platform experience, and rarely has a genre heading been so fitting.
As Max, the player goes in search of his brother and mist travel through seven different lands to reach him. Within these lands players will find twenty increasingly difficult levels. The videogame begins relatively simply as the player is gifted control of the earth: creating small turrets to reach higher levels or move crates. Soon they are tasked with the use of these techniques within combat also, creating walls to prevent enemies from passing or a shield that can deflect their projectile attacks.
As the videogame progresses players will gain more powers, and Electronic Theatre was treated to the debut showcase of water puzzles during our hands-on preview. Much like the earth abilities, the player can command gushes of water which push objects, or even themselves. By jumping into the streams the player creates they can be propelled forward, backwards or upwards, and many of the puzzles presented to Electronic Theatre in this preview build involved learning how to create continuous paths leading to new areas – up, down or a great distance ahead – without falling between streams.
While its cartoon exterior may suggest that Max: The Curse of Brotherhood is a videogame aimed at children, nothing could be further from the truth. This is a genuinely taxing puzzle-platform videogame that demands prior knowledge of the genre and the kind of challenges it presents, increasingly so as you progress through the levels. Press Play managed to create a fine balance in the Xbox One release, ensuring the difficulty is justified for the most part, and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood has proved worthy of your attention as an digital-only title.