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Best in Class Part: Three / 13th of March 2015

Another week, another two genres from which to highlight a title that we believe is potentially the best example of each available on either of the two most popular current-gen platforms. For this week, I have taken at look at smaller, downloadable releases that highlight their developers goal to place gameplay above graphics, and in doing so, create two of the finest games that we have seen over the last eighteen months or so, one of which was rather cruelly slated by reviewers, though in some cases they were rightly reprimanded by their own readers for the inaccuracy of the ratings (we won’t name names though!). Anyway, read on, and if you think that we’re wrong, let us know via Facebook, Reddit or Twitter!

The Platform Game

As far as the platform genre goes, aside from Nintendo’s output that is, our choices are fairly limited, but that certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t any genuinely brilliant games, especially with Limbo having been re-released. Yet, my choice – despite being a platform/puzzle game – doesn’t come from Play Dead, but rather Microsoft’s own Press Play, another Danish developer that have cut their teeth in this ever popular area, my choice (obviously) being the underrated and overlooked Max: The Curse of Brotherhood.

As far as exclusives go, it certainly ranks as being among the very best that either the PS4 or Xbox One have to offer, with bright, Unity powered, family friendly visuals and an array of puzzles that never get too taxing, ensuring that the Max is something that anyone can literally pick up and play. Though that doesn’t mean that you won’t be dying a heck of a lot whilst playing it, because you will (at first anyway), but at no point does the game ever feel frustrating thanks to a very gentle checkpoint system that ensures you won’t be repeating yourself too much.

In terms of the game’s narrative, Max borrows a fair bit from the film, Labyrinth, in that Max wishes his brother away, and upon being kidnapped, realises that he needs to get him back, no matter the cost. Following his brother and captor through a portal, max finds himself plunged into a strange world where he must learn vital new skills as he progresses in order to continue his advance. These involve the manipulation of the land around him to solve puzzles and defeat marauding enemies, which is achieved through the use of the right analogue stick which controls Max’s magic marker. In some reviews, this part of the control scheme fell under the most scrutiny, with claims that it simply wasn’t accurate enough, yet this couldn’t be further from the truth.

There was precious little fanfare around Max: The Curse of Brotherhood when it was released on the Xbox One shortly after its launch, which did little to highlight the stature of the game, it is one of the best exclusive titles available even now, it is an absolute joy to play, and an absolute bargain at the price, so if you don’t already have this magical, Jim Henson inspired adventure, get it.

The Arcade/Twin-Stick Shooter

The original Geometry Wars was created by Bizarre Creations’ Stephen Cakebread during his lunch breaks before being bundled into the utterly brilliant Project Gotham Racing 2 as a hidden extra. Fans adored its simple, yet horrendously addictive gameplay, and for a follow up, the team devoted a bit more time to the cause, to create a particle infested, twin-stick shooter that still ranks as one of the very best that the genre has to offer, naturally, such brilliance saw the game released as a stand-alone project, effectively kick-starting Xbox Live Arcade into existence. This smash hit was soon followed up with Geometry Wars: Waves, a title that took the series back to its roots, taking the place of a playable arcade unit within Project Gotham Racing 4 (the final, and arguably best entry in the series), before Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 took the game into previously unheard of territories with a range of playable game modes that make it one of the most comprehensive, and infinitely playable XBLA releases to date.

Following further releases on the Wii and DS platforms, not to mention the dissolution of Bizarre Creations by Activision, the series – following the re-emergence of publisher Sierra Online – has found its way into the capable hands of Lucid Games, a developer started up by several members of the original development team, but how do they create a game to rival what many think is already gaming perfection? With consummate ease, it would seem.

Comprised of almost every game mode that its predecessor had on offer, all with enhanced visuals and new music, Dimensions really raises the bar in terms of a core single player experience that offers more than the highly addictive score based gameplay of earlier iterations. Incorporating an adventure mode, Dimensions sees players work their way through fifty levels of hardcore blasting action, tackling a wide range of game modes, some being debuted for the very first time, and a host of hard-as-nails bosses. As if that wasn’t enough, Lucid Games incorporated three dimensional stages that play out similarly to Super Stardust HD and upgradeable drones and super weapons to add a tad more depth, not to mention strategy, to the proceedings, arguably making this the best Geometry Wars release yet.

With both local and online multiplayer modes, enhanced visuals and an absolute ton of both game modes, this the arcade shooter that gamers have been waiting a long time for, it may have seen its price point doubled since Retro Evolved 2, but there is still an awful lot of bang for your buck, so we really couldn’t recommend it highly enough for both veteran players as well as newcomers to the series. 

Well, that’s six genres down now, I’m away to play some Ori and the Blind Forest, so expect next week’s article to feature this Metroidvania delight!

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