This week, I played a game that felt like the lovechild of an SNES platformer and a touchscreen puzzle-solving title. Where's this cute and wonky hybrid showing up? Why, the Xbox One, of course.
At first blush, you'll think you know exactly what you're getting in Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. It's a shiny-cute adventure where lead character Max has to rescue his little brother Felix after accidentally banishing him to the alternate dimension of Anotherland. (He was being very annoying.) Max follows him there and has to jump, climb and puzzle-solve his way to saving Felix.
When I saw the game on Tuesday, Mikkel Pedersen and Mikkel Thorsted said that they're trying to evolve traditional 2D platforming by challenging certain conventions of platformer design. So, you won't see any floating platforms in The Curse of Brotherhood.
What you will see is a set of mechanics that let you get from the left side of the screen to the right side by scrawling elemental structures across the world controlled by evil sorcerer Mustachio. As the game goes on, Max gains the abilities to draw stone pillars, water spouts, jungle vines and aiming arcs for fireballs, all thanks to his magic marker. Players will use the analogue stick to draw the lines to make the magic powers activate.
When I played MtCoB this week, I really enjoyed how little handle-holding there was to be found in the levels I sampled. No giant arrows or text hints, only the occasional dialogue nudge when you're first using a new power for the first time. I've found that silence is always golden in these kinds of physics-based puzzle platformers and am glad that the Press Play folks think so, too.
Curse of Brotherhood feels like a game that's attempting to recreate the tactile interface of a touchscreen gaming idea into a console game. (It's a spiritual sequel to Max and the Magic Marker, which landed on Wii, DS, iOS devices and PS3.) You could draw things in that game but here, you'll be able to draw a branch and cut it off wherever you slice it and then use it to a raft. Players will also be able to combine powers so it'll be possible to infuse a branch with fire powers and use it to ward off enemies.
Each camera movement in the game was placed by hand, which shows off the lushly imagined world and makes it feel intimate and cinematic, like a Dreamworks CGI feature film that you can bounce along through.
Press Play told me that MtCoB will be available for the Xbox 360 as well. The plan is to down-port the Xbox One version to the Xbox 360. 360 players won't be getting a full HD experience, though, and that iteration of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood running at 30 FPS, instead of the 60 FPS of the Xbox One version.
Max: The Curse of Brotherhood comes across like the kind of game that's all but disappeared from console line-ups in the last decade. It's a kid-friendly game filled with nostalgia for games gone by, but one that tries to feel of-the-moment. Players will get their chance to take Max on his grand adventure next year.