Friday, December 27, 2013

A welcome surprise

Oh my god, there are no retail releases in January, time to start stretching games out and playing random things. I could start Ryse and see if it as bad/good as I have read or I could play this random puzzle/platformer that I had never heard of. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood? Why not. This is also how I ended up with all sorts of terrible old arcade ports for my 360. There was just nothing else to play for months after the system was released.

I was not expecting much from Max. Physics based puzzle platformers are a dime a dozen, each with their own twist to keep the player interested. The best example of this, and still my favorite, is Limbo. The puzzles were not very difficult and the platforming itself was solid. What the game had is abundance was mood. It had character. And it was really fucking weird.

Max does not have the same strength of mood or character. Max himself is a generic bratty older brother who 'inadvertently' banishes his younger brother to another dimension. Blah blah, creepy bad guy, giant monsters, etc.  The banal setup is forgivable because it has chosen a different place to shine. Max has excellent platforming puzzles. Every one so far has landed in the just right sweet spot: I had to stop and think, walk back and forth, try a few things, and the answer came. No digging around online for cheats, no strolling through the game without thinking. It has, for at least the first two thirds, hit a balance that is rarely seen.

Max manipulates the environment with his 'magic' magic marker, controlled thankfully by an analog stick instead of finicky motion controls. Having obtained the first four of five abilities I can see where it is going: new abilities it introduced, there is an easy section and then a fast section that require it. And then the fun begins as it is thrown into the mix with the previous mark abilities. Right now I can raise pillars from the group, create branches that can be cut off and pushed around, pull vines out of nowhere and set up roller coaster like streams of water. I know that there will be a puzzle requiring all four of those plus whatever the last one is to be used in succession, probably while being chased by something large and ugly. The good news is that I am looking forward to it. The bad new is that is will mean the game is over and I have to face the doldrums of January again.

Update: I should stop reading reviews. Most of them have the exact opposite opinion that I do. Oh well.

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