pax 2013

Max: The Curse of Brotherhood

Hands-On With Press Play's Physics-Based Platformer
by Mike Futter on Sep 01, 2013 at 07:44 AM
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Press Play
Rating: Everyone
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360

Those of us with siblings have probably wished for our brothers or sisters to disappear at some point. Just like Max though, we'd probably dive through a mysterious portal to another world if that ever were to happen. After playing three levels of the 2014 Xbox 360 and Xbox One title, I'm glad that Max both got fed up and decided to play the hero.

We met with the trio of Press Play studio directors, Ole Stubbe Teglbjaerg, Rune Maimskov Dittmer, and Mikkel Thorsted (also game director on Max). The team traveled from Copenhagen, Denmark to show the Xbox 360 version of the game to us, and it's coming along nicely.

The first level we are placed in teaches us the dual control mechanics. Max is a platformer, but thanks to the magic marker (which holds the soul of an old witch), he is able to manipulate the elements. These appear at designated places in the environment as swirling inkwells of different colors.

Throughout the game, Max controls rock, vines, branches, water, and fire, often in combination. Drawing with the marker is free-form, but each ink well has a limited distance. This helps complicate the puzzles, forcing creative thinking, faith in the physics, and a lot of breath holding. Thankfully, the checkpoint system is very generous, and this encourages nearly penalty-free experimentation.

It is much easier to play around with the water and vine physics to complete a puzzle or reach one of the hidden collectibles when death only sets you back a few moments. The balance of platforming and drawing feels evenly paced, and manipulating the marker isn't difficult, a feat given the relative precision differences between a mouse and a thumbstick.

The puzzles requiring multiple ink wells and elements are most satisfying. Setting up a human-propelling Rube Goldberg device is fun, and watching the execution (regardless of success or failure) feels fresh each time thanks to the creative puzzle design.

We'll be able to help Max rescue his brother this spring on Xbox 360 and Xbox One.