Rating Xbox One’s Games with Gold: June

As the Xbox One has finally got round to giving us players who bought into microsoft’s next gen offering early what we’d paid for, I thought I’d check out the first two games that they’ve given us to hopefully hook us as well as give us hope for the future. The two games, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and Halo: Spartan Assault, are hardly the big treat we’d hoped for in terms of length or full game or a launch title. Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, was a huge surprise for me. One I really enjoyed playing … so much so that both I and my other half were addicted. Here’s what she thought about it:

As a tentative gamer I’m always willing to give new games a chance, albeit on the easy setting for FPS, in the hopes that I might find something that I just can’t put down, and this month’s Xbox One Games with Gold freebie has grabbed my attention and just got me hooked. Max: Curse of Brotherhood centres around getting Max, a young lad armed with nothing but a backpack and a marker pen, through a series of different terrains to rescue his annoying little brother, Félix, who’s of course managed to get himself kidnapped by the bad guy. This is great for us gamers, though not quite so good for Felix, but sometimes you have to make a little sacrifice to have a bit of fun … Sorry Felix, I’m sure we’ll find you in the end!
We start off fairly easy running through a desert and doing some simple jumps and dodges to escape from the giant King Kong/ Frankensteinesque monster that’s shaking the living daylights out of your nerdy kid. It’s a fairly simple platform game but the graphics look great, considering that it’s most likely aimed at a younger audience, it’s got a real Pixar look to it, and the producers have clearly put a lot of effort into making it appealing; for me this really works, it’s quite nice to see that, whilst graphics have dramatically improved for next gen gaming, people aren’t afraid to put out a title that’s going to satisfy those young at heart and not be concerned with making the characters look as real as possible. Who doesn’t love cartoons after all?!

We soon make our way through to a new terrain and swing and clamber up a magical tree to be armed with a magic marker pen gifted with the powers of bringing nature to life to help Max get through the game. This might sound like the worst weapon ever, but this marker pen is the key to unlocking frustrating obstacles that get in your way, helping you teeter over ogre-like henchmen that are lurking below ready to beat you up with a caveman style club, and swinging, hopping and floating your way to save the day … and make sure that Mum doesn’t get too pissed off if you come home missing a sibling.

It soon gets addictive trying to find the best way to angle a branch or making a vine swing the just right amount so that you can catch it when you jump, and the game for me feels partly like a puzzle, as some of the sequences to get to the next step of the level can take a little time to figure out; the first couple levels are easy to breeze through, and almost lull you into a false sense of security. Then the frustration can set in, certain levels where the angles just aren’t glaringly obvious or just ridiculous and you find yourself trying so many different ways to craft the vines, roots, water or rocks that you end up repeating the same steps, then by chance you could do something silly and you’ll find the right way. This is one of the few turn offs, but the game is good enough that you work through these annoying parts to continue playing.

Different elements are added in along your journey and the marker pen becomes more useful as you go along, the end of each level sees you adding a new power to the pen which is necessary for you to get through the next part of the game.

Along the way you have puzzle pieces to collect and eyeballs to tear off of walls (they’re used for spying for the villain, evil CCTV style) these can be hidden in fairly tricky and awkward places that take a bit of working out to get to so you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled at all times and work through the urge to throw something against the wall if you can’t get it in the first five tries, you’ll get it in ten … hopefully. I’ve not finished the game yet so I’m not entirely sure what the puzzle will get you but my guess is it’s most likely the key to freeing Felix and defeating the bad guy. If it looks like a Disney film it’s gotta have a Disney style ending.

For me as a new and inexperienced gamer it’s been a good introduction to platform games and a nice change from shooting or stabbing my way through a game; it’s a more innocent violence, if such a thing can even exist, and perfect for younger players but equally enjoyable and addictive for older players too. The fact that the game was free too is a massive bonus, especially considering that if it wasn’t part of the Games with Gold I probably wouldn’t have downloaded it and would have missed out on a great little game.

The other side of the coin, is Halo: Spartan Assault. Wow. I can’t believe they released this shite. To say, as a fact, that Spartan Assault tarnished and has almost ruined the Halo franchise for me, does not come close to saying how much I disliked it. I’m not a fan of making a twin-stick shooter that’s top down … it just doesn’t make sense to me for that to be a part of the Halo universe. To start off with, it’s so easy to see that this is a mobile game ported to the next-gen console. And boy, I am disappointed. The gameplay itself isn’t too bad, simple, but the missions and play style get very repetitious, very, very quickly. There’s no way this game looks next-gen, my guess being that they thought they’d get away with it seeing as it’s a top down shooter. The levels are short and don’t look particularly spectacular. I think the fact that I’m not even willing to go too much into this game and give it the same length of time as Max says all it needs to.

The end of the day, we’ve been gifted one amazingly fun game to sink our teeth into, while the other leaves you wanting to forget the start of this journey.