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Thursday, October 22, 2020

Review: Max's Big Bust 2 - Max's Bigger Bust (PC)


Review by Matt S. 

Nothing is sacred in Aussie gender-flipping, boob-inflating, hyper-sexed buddy-cop drama visual novel, Max's Big Bust 2 - Max's Bigger Bust. If this game - and series - from Lached Up Games were more prominent it would almost certainly find a level of notoriety within certain circles for the uninhibited laissez faire attitude that the game takes towards everything from gender-swapping, sexual humour, and swearing. It's never mean-spirited about it, though, and it's ironically (given the anime aesthetics) one of the more honestly Aussie games out there.

First up, though, go into this knowing that it is very low budget. For just one example of this in action, the developer hasn't even replaced some sprites from the first game in the second, and the fact they were drawn by different artists is very evident. As someone who writes his own micro-budget visual novels, I sympathise with the struggle to pull something cohesive together with the development assets available, and I love that the developer's solution here was to make self-referential jokes to how different the characters looked when a "hologram" of the original, non-gender-swapped character design was pulled up in one point of the narrative. It's worth noting that some of the more awkward sprites will be eventually replaced - this is an Early Access game at this point - but it is important to go in knowing that you're not looking at the likes of Date-A-Live or Piofiore as far as the aesthetics and production values go.

With that being said, the developer has really embraced what they've got to work with, and Max's Big Bust 2 has a sense of humour and charm to it as big as... well, Max's bust. Max (who was male in the first game, but was gender-flipped and now permanently a woman) is a cop, and she and her partner, Brad, are sent on a job to chase someone down. Unfortunately for them, they are hit by some kind of gas weapon, which makes Max's already impressive chest swell to backbreaking size, and, in addition now it's Brad's turn to flip his gender over to the other side. Back at the station, they task the all-knowing AI, Aisha (a hologram and yet again I find myself desperately wanting to hook up with the hologram most of all... I swear Hatsune Miku did something to my wiring) with working out what happened to them (and how to revert back to normal), and then set out to solve some other more mundane problems... like finding clothes for Max that aren't about to erupt in a spray of buttons.


At this Early Access stage, there's still a lot of narrative to come. Lached Up Games is going to deliver new chapters over the course of a year or so, and currently, you'll only have access to three of the 13 of them. It's much too early to get a sense of the overall narrative arc, but having played the previous game, as well as "Persona-like" RPG spinoff, Alluna and Brie, I also am confident that there is a cohesive and enjoyable plot ahead. For now, however, it's more like a series of little skits, each played for maximum humour, and they're all good. There's the scene where Max and Bonnie (formerly known as Brad) need to pay back a debt they owe to a cafe (it's a big debt, for ridiculous reasons) by dressing in ridiculous swimsuits and dancing at the front of the cafe to attract new customers. There's the scene where they go shopping for clothes, and get dragged into a lingerie store/sex store (interesting mixed business, that) and so on. As it's a game with romance options, you can start to woo any of the five characters you can eventually form a relationship with, and there are a couple of little minigames and options along the way. The three chapters that are currently available show the vision and deliver an excellent, very funny start to the narrative, and it will be great to see where it goes from here.

It's the Australian-isms that really get me though, and Max's Big Bust 2 handles it in such a natural way that it'll roll off the local audience, but come across as very heavily accented overseas. All of the characters swear like very drunk, uninhibited sailors, and what's more, they use swear words that no one here bats an eyelid at, but will likely provoke something of a reaction almost anywhere else in the world. In fact, I'm fairly certain this game is angling for the achievement of having the most uses of the word "c***" in a video game, ever, and I swear, each and every time a character used that word I was transported to any train station platform across Sydney. It's always a joy listening in to people's conversations as they screech at one another across the platform. As Australians, we're very used to that kind of bogan language. That word, however, has much heavier connotations in other parts of the world, so if you're not Australian, go in expecting that.

In other ways, the game's almost subtle about the Aussie-ness of it all. Max's bedroom has a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from her window (she must be one obscenely wealthy cop, because there's no way you're getting a view of so much as single brick of that structure for anything less than $1 million), and the police HQ has a big map of Australia on one of the screens. Characters aren't voiced, so there's no accents to contend with, but you'll "hear" them in an Australian accent for certain. That disconnect between the aesthetics of Asia and the Australian landmarks and sense of humour, would have fallen over completely if the game wasn't so completely easy-going in its approach.


It's also worth noting that while Max's Big Bust 2 leans heavily on a ridiculous, crass kind of humour, it's not unintelligent about it. The developer consistently squeezes musings into the text regarding everything from the malign influence of "cults" (read between the lines there) through to a discussion on the decline of shopping malls and brick-and-mortar retail. These are observational in approach and often seem to come out of nowhere. They're best thought of as casual conversations between two characters, perhaps, but relevant and topical nonetheless.

"Indie" visual novels are a dime-a-dozen these days. If even I can make them, then anyone can. What's harder to do is create a visual novel with a distinct (and interesting) personality, and which has either something substantial to say or is downright funny. Lached Up Games is very much about the humour, and combining an ochre Aussie sense of humour with a heavily fanservicey Japanese aesthetic is certainly distinctive enough that you've not played anything like what this developer produces. You probably should play the original Max's Big Bust before getting into the sequel, but the second is bigger and better (in every way), and it is, put most simply, pure entertainment



- Matt S. 
Editor-in-Chief
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb

The critic was provided with a copy of this game for review.

Review: Max's Big Bust 2 - Max's Bigger Bust (PC)
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