{Maxwell Manor Reborn}

Game Concept

Maxwell Manor / 1984 / Commodore 64 {X}

OG Maxwell Manor game description ~ In this action game with top-down and side-view sections, you play Professor Arabesque who has been sent by the Psychical society to rid the controlling influence of the Skull of Doom. Arabesque must jump and shoot through the Manor, to collect the treasures and use them to solve the mystery. When you die you enter a limbo room, in which one exit (randomly-selected by the game) restores Arabesque; the others result in death. Every time you play, the bonus items are randomly placed, and the exact map layout is adjusted. There are over 1000 variations and ten skill levels. Much like today’s FPS’ there are vases to reload the gun and grant lives. They are reset at the beginning of each game hour.

Thesis: {Maxwell Manor Reborn} first-person survival horror action game. Maxwell has returned to his family’s ancient manor, with a revolver, a holy crucifix and a courageous heart. His mission is to enter the condemned and very haunted house in order to recover the accursed artifacts of power within, to be spirited away and destroyed by his employer, The Psychical Society. Horrors await him within, and potentially damnation. But it isn’t up to fate – it is up to the players. // Both a competitive and cooperative multiplayer experience, {MMR} involves one player taking control of Maxwell, the prototypical monster slayer and hero – as well as up to 5 other players taking on the role of the monstrous forces opposing him within the house.

Setting: “It’s midnight at Maxwell Manor…” – the ancient homeland of the Maxwell clan, a historically significant and mysteriously tragic family / A dark and stormy night / A myriad of hungry and anticipating things that will go bump in the night many times before this night is over…

Playable Characters:

  • Maxwell ~ full name, Frederich Wilhelm-Justicarius Maxwellian Maxwell IV – he is a renowned professor, archeologist and Muay Thai black belt – and heir to the Maxwell fortune, and curse. He has been employed by the enigmatic shadow organization known as The Psychical Society to enter Maxwell Manor, recover as many artifacts of power from within it as he can, and return them to the Society for inspection and eventually, destruction. But not all is as it seems, with the Society, of course, but also with Maxwell himself, and his intentions… What Maxwell does with the artifacts, and whether or not he ever intends on handing them over to the Society, is up to the controlling player…
  • The Monsters ~ the dark and monstrous opposing forces which lurk within the house – each is equipped with different abilities, all equally dangerous and potentially lethal to any intruders within the Manor, even this formidable man known as Maxwell.

Gameplay:

  • First person control of Maxwell – first and third person control of the monsters.
  • The game begins with Maxwell entering the manor. It is three stories and has an incredibly complex layout with many rooms. Some of the house is lit and some lies in near perpetual darkness. This can change over time due to damage to the working lights, the discovery of candles, torches or other items capable of producing light. Maxwell can enter the Manor initially through a variety of locations, of his choosing and unknown to the monsters within the house – Examples: Front door, back door, side door through the garden, first story window, second story window, third story window, sun roof, etc.
  • The player controlling Maxwell wields a fully-loaded revolver in his right and a steel-white crucifix, bladed at all its ends in his left hand. He is fully capable of using each to the ends of defending himself against his opponents. His search for the artifacts begins – though the ease and timing of his discoveries may vary …
  • Each time a game instance begins the layout of the house is randomized, and the placement of the items, artifacts, and monster spawns is all randomized too – via procedural generation.
  • While Maxwell makes his intrepid journey through the manor, the player-controlled monsters gather to try to oppose him, delay him, injure him, and eventually kill him. Each spawning in separate locations within the three-story house, the monsters must hunt for Maxwell, drawn by the expected phenomena: sounds and lights. However, some of the beasties house abilities to enhance their hunt and make it easier to find and attack Maxwell.
  • The monster players can work together but they must first discover one another to coordinate their assaults. The game’s communication can be turned on or off in order to more effectively speak and plan, to lower or increase the challenge the monsters face.
  • Maxwell is strong but not invincible. Each monster can spawn with multiple lives or only one, depending on the difficulty the players choose.
  • The ultimate objective of Maxwell: to discover each of the artifacts, randomly hidden (sometimes well, sometimes not-so-well) within the Manor. Once he finds and retrieves each of the 7 artifacts from within the house, ending always with the Skull of Doom, then he can try to escape from the manor …
  • The ultimate objective of the monsters: kill Maxwell!

Endgame: {Maxwell Manor Reborn} is meant to viscerally re-create the haunted house experience – from both sides of the equation – for the next generation of intrepid monster slayers and monsters.

Inspired By ~

Maxwell Manor

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Amnesia: The Dark Descent

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Hai!

Left 4 Dead

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Dead by Daylight

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Design / System / Mechanics

Design ~ character & level design

Maxwell is the prototypical action hero – capable of everything you might expect out of one. He can fight with blade or gun, run, use his environment and his smarts to escape or fend off dangers. First-person controlled, just like the monsters, and always working alone – he must be aware of his environment and use his limited field of view wisely. A smart player will check their corners, look behind them often, and when entering a new room, always, always … look up.

Maxwell’s basic actions: Sprint / Crouch & Sneak / Dodge and Roll / Jump and Roll / Aim and fire revolver / Slice with crucifix / Batter with crucifix / Unarmed Punch & Kick / Use basic item / Use artifact / {Special interactions with certain monsters and artifacts…} Maxwell carries two primary tools against the darkness lying in wait within his ancestral Manor:

Revolver ~ a powerful and trusted handgun that Maxwell has used for years. He is well-trained and at full mental and physical capability, is a dead-eye shot with it. Never jams but can be dropped, or taken…

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Crucifix ~ a steel crucifix, bladed with a killing structure to it. Nearly indestructible, it gleams in the light. It addition to being it melee weapon, Maxwell can hold it up as a shield of faith against most forces of darkness within the manor. It can be dropped or taken, thought much less easily than the revolver. Maxwell’s eternal soul is bound up with this artifact {though not literally}, and thus he won’t give it up easily. However, when he is overpowered and it becomes lost from him, he loses sanity faster from there…

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Though these two weapons are most effective against his shadowy foes within the Manor. Even unarmed Maxwell is still a threat. He is a black belt in Muay Thai and can even punch enemies to death, or into a stupor, long enough for him to escape their presence back into the house and try to hide. Additionally, Maxwell can use the environment. He can throw objects lying around within the house at aggressors, shove furniture into the way of monsters chasing him or throw things like bookshelves down upon them, or shoot chandeliers. Well-timed maneuvers like this can even kill certain enemies outright.

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Van Helsing (2004), Hugh Jackman ~ inspiration for Maxwell

As he enters the darkness of the Manor, Maxwell’s movements and actions will be fluid to start, at the peak of his physical prime and of right mind. However, as he takes damage and loses blood from attacks from the monsters, and witnesses horrific monstrosities, illusions and finds evidences of the atrocities committed within this house, he will lose sanity and stability. As a result of both of these kinds of ‘damage’ dealt to him over time, Maxwell will become slower and more sluggish. Unless he can find healing, or use the artifacts to aid him in his travails through the accursed manor, death is assured for him…

Quips ~ Through his time in the Manor, in order to keep his wits about him and his fear in check, Maxwell uses humor. While searching the house or fighting monsters, the player can choose to release quips and one-liners to keep up their sanity, and sometimes even give random boosts in health. However, the drawback is that these sounds draw other monsters to his location within the house {sometimes even better than gunshots or the sounds of melee}

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Ash from Evil Dead (1981) ~ inspiration for Maxwell

Psychotic ~ When Maxwell’s sanity becomes fully drained after repeated encounters with certain monsters, or he makes terrible discoveries within the house, then he will near and eventually have a psychotic break. When it happens, Maxwell becomes unstable to the point where the player sometimes loses control of his movements. His vision will randomly blur, making it difficult to spot enemies or threats around him. Other times, he will become hyper-focused upon a target – either an artifact within a room, or an enemy monster – and you will be able to better hunt it and recover/vanquish it than before, increasing in speed and gaining increased endurance against damage. The drawback is that after these hyper-focused episodes, Maxwell will become sluggish and exhausted for a temporary time, making him move slower and lose perception of his surroundings. In his psychotic state, Maxwell will cycle through these episodes until he can get help – either by finding an item – the pills – or by using the special properties of an artifact to heal himself.


The Monsters ~ there are variety of monsters the players can take on within the game. Each uses different abilities, can maneuver their specific way, and is held back by unique restrictions given they are inhuman creatures confined to the accursed darkness of the manor.

Gamby and Goon – a pair of little shadowy goblins known as “Redcaps.” They are murderous tricksters who work best as a duo. They wield a dagger and a handaxe respectively, and they can use them to slice at Maxwell’s legs to injure him slightly and slow him. Speedy and shifty in open space, they are capable of distracting, and trying to steal weapons from Max. Summoned into from the Infernal Planes together as bound brothers, they always know where the other is at all times within the manor by a shadowy silhouette

{Physical & small: Can be shot or bludgeoned/sliced to death – but they are fast and difficult to hit}

Special: Somewhere lost within the house {randomly placed each session} is their Scythe – either Gamby or Goon {whichever is left, if both – players may fight each other to wield the powerful weapon} can use it to wreak havoc on Maxwell and actually try to kill him with it, absorbing his soul into their bloody hat.

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Murderous Redcap by DaveAllsop
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Robin Redcap by Loneanimator

The Apparition – a slow-moving ghostly being; it cannot interact with the physical world of the Manor, but can appear intermittently with dreadful phantasmic force to scare Max. These scares stun him and slowly drift him into insanity.

{To be destroyed, the Apparition’s phylactery – which houses its essence and is the object binding its spirit to the house – must be found and destroyed by Maxwell. It is generally well-hidden, but can be denoted by a slight wailing sound and a green glow – randomly placed within the house for each game}

Special: After banishment, The Apparition can store itself into one of the remaining hidden artifacts not yet recovered by Maxwell for one last scare, draining his sanity more than normal, thus making it more likely to trigger a psychotic break…

Etherling – ancient inter-dimensional haunter in the dark, can control the house’s machinations and belay Max’s movement through it. It has potential vision on every room and common area within the manor, but it must view them one at a time and can only shift between them every few seconds. Abilities include: slam doors shut, throw objects, snuff lights, electrical or burning, drop furniture or move it, cut chandeliers, and even start fires or cast other randomly imbued dark powers – with either limited uses or long recharge times {ex: temporarily blind the player, drive them psychotic, or make them fall through the floor into another room – as long as the Etherling has eyes on Max}. It continuously ethers Maxwell by being incredibly annoying. However, it cannot move. Like a scarecrow, it stands in place and operates from this point for its entire existence. Wherever it spawns is where it must stay – generally, it is behind closed doors, under beds, within wardrobes, etc.

When found, the Etherling can be banished temporarily with a 20 second prayer of exorcism. This leaves Maxwell vulnerable for this period, but the Etherling cannot operate its powers. Maxwell has a good incentive to hunt down the Etherling, as the game goes on its minor tricks, traps and general impediments can cause Maxwell to slow enough to be overtaken by the other monsters, or prevent him from efficiently grabbing the artifacts and achieving his objective. The longer our hero stays in the house, the more dire it becomes for his survivability…

Special: The banishment from the Manor back into its own dark dimension is temporary, and after a random interval {5, 10, 15 minute clock}, the Etherling returns to a random spot within the house to continue its machinations.

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~ art by James Ryman

Pająk – A spider demon from space – It can only crawl on ceilings and can only become still and settle into its killing arts while in the dark. While weaving its galactic webs from corners of rooms or from the ceiling, it can lie in wait. It can shoot out spines from its abdomen to paralyze Max with for a short duration {with a body shot}. With a headshot, he is reeled in and must try one attempt at killing it before being killed

{Can be shot or bludgeoned to death} – The spider demon is perhaps most easily discovered and killed. The strands of its web gleams in the dark and it is a large enough creature so as to be hard to miss. This highlights the importance of setting up while playing Pająk. Additionally, the spider’s webs remain within the Manor after it has died, wherever it placed them, to slow and impede and slightly injure Maxwell.

Special: Can lay eggs in a location and hatch a double of itself. Once the egg is laid, a clock starts before the hatchling spawns. If it spawns while the original is still alive, then it is taken over by an A.I. and acts accordingly. If it hatches when the original has been felled, then the player takes control of their double.

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~ art source
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~ art source

Wolf – “The final boss” ~ a hulking and nightmarish hunter of men, a damned werewolf fully torqued for Maxwell’s lifeblood ~ Summons during the endgame – The endgame begins either when: Maxwell discovers the Skull of Doom, the final artifact, or when enough time has passed and Maxwell’s inefficient course through the Manor comes due, as well as his likely damnation …

A random monster player is chosen to take on the role of the Wolf – can be living or dead, if living another dead player will take control of their living monster wherever they are within the Manor.

The wolf, or werewolf, or wolf-man, is a definitive physical match for Max. Possessing extraordinary speed, strength and hunting ability, it can easily find and engage in prolonged combat with Maxwell. It must be killed with a silver bullet. {Can be shot or bludgeoned to slow and damage it, but ultimately it may only be killed with a silver bullet shot from Maxwell’s revolver. 2 shots, 1 if it’s a successful headshot.}

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~ art by Chris Scalf

Vamp – an ancient vampire lord unearthed from beneath the manor – a special higher difficulty boss? – wields bats, super strength and speed, temporary invulnerability

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~ Art by Wei-Zi

Systems ~ environments, tools & A.I.

The Manor’s interior options and detailed environments are designed from the ground up, to include a variety of types of furniture, objects and potential hiding spots for monsters or Maxwell himself. Everything is marred by time, and the lighting and structure of the Manor interior is sporadic. Some areas are better lit and better constructed than others due to its ancient nature. There are three stories and over three dozen separate rooms and areas within the Manor – not all of them appear in every instance of the game and they never appear within the same manner or order. The house will completely different on every play through guaranteed.

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Basic discoverable items for Maxwell to use ~

  • Med kit – used to heal, takes time to apply though leaving Max vulnerable to attack.
  • Pain pills – used to provide Max with a temporary health boost – can also mitigate psychotic state
  • Extra bullets / spare crucifix – can be found in drawers and cupboards / One spare crucifix can be discovered in every house, an old family heirloom, precious and completely unmarred by time, no monsters can go near it…
  • Silver bullets – 3 silver bullets can be found in every house, for use in killing the Wolf during the endgame.
  • Lore books – as you come across them, can take the time to briefly read books and other various lore on the stories of the tragedies that have taken place within the house over the years – Reward: Learn the exact locations of certain Artifacts, or where Monsters may be lurking given where they spawned within that game. Risk: Takes time, Max becomes vulnerable while reading, and some knowledge decreases his sanity…
  • Monster evidence – as monsters traverse the house, they can leave behind evidence for Max to investigate. As he does, he gains insight on their movements and potential weaknesses. Reward: When the time comes to face them later, he can better perform what he needs to do to defeat them – more accuracy in his attacks, or short duration to exorcise or knowledge of where their phylactery is, etc. Risk: investigation takes time away from searching for artifacts, and some of their evidence can lead the hero into darkness, reducing his stability and raising his need to quip…

The “Artifacts ~ the artifacts Max is tasked with discovering and retrieving from within the house. He tries to escape with as many of them as possible – Not all artifacts need be recovered and spirited from the Manor, but Max cannot attempt to leave the house until he has at least discovered them all.

  • Amulet of Aorymoto – Necklace provides additional healing properties over time – Worn around the neck / Danger: it’s crimson glow will sometimes draw monsters – Can be ripped off and destroyed
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  • Eye of Ejji – A stone eye that can be used to see monsters through walls and the locations of other artifacts – Danger: Max must rip his own eye out and replace it with this in order to use it, losing blood and health in the process – The eye can be ripped out by certain monsters ~ {Redcap brothers, Wolf}
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  • Pyramid of Pambyboo – A small pyramid which can be used absorb evil spirits; Pieces of its power can be left as traps within a room, damaging or destroying any monsters that come into contact with the voids in space it creates, limited uses: 4. Danger: Placing the cosmic traps takes time to deploy – Can be pick-pocketed from Max and destroyed – {Redcap Bros} – or its effect can be focused upon by the spirit monsters and counteracted and neutralized {Apparition, Etherling}. Additionally, once active in a room, if Maxwell enters that room again he will be damaged by its void rip.
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  • Light of Lathander – A handheld orb of light which can be wielded in one hand. The light produced from within its infinite center can be activated temporarily to fend off all monsters from harming Maxwell and allow him to move through an area of the Manor unheeded. Danger: the orb must be wielded in one of his two hands in order to be used, losing one of your primary weapons while doing so, and it must recharge after each use. Cannot be destroyed but can be dropped in a stun or pick-pocketed.
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  • Sword of Shambala – A powerful longsword which can slice and dice all monsters to death or banishment. Danger: Both of Max’s other weapons must be doffed in order to use it. It can be dropped in a stun and then stolen by the monsters.
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~ art by Nano-Core
  • Tome of Tombs – By choosing to read this book in the span of a cosmic moment, Maxwell can learn necromancy and then cast dark powers – Maxwell can summon his own skeletons and daemons and apparitions to fight for him and protect him, at the cost of his own health and sanity… They are strong and effective in their rooting out other monsters within the Manor… however, there is always a random choice these randomly summoned monsters will not be able to be put down again and will attack Maxwell…
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  • Skull of Doom – The final artifact – It always appears last, provides no benefits, and recovering it starts the endgame…

Rare discoverable items ~ these items don’t always appear within the House, many games will have to played in order to come across them. They add an additional spice to the game’s replayability and endgame.

  • {RARE} – Mask of Sogoth ~ an otherworldly mask which gifts the user with otherworldly abilities but at the cost of their permanent mental state…
  • {Super RARE} – Deck of Many Monsters ~ a deck of cards which summons FREE random and chaotic monsters and beasts from its magical cards. They fight other monsters first and then hunt Maxwell too, if he’s still around…
  • {Super super RARE} – The Lament Configuration – Maxwell attains great powers with minimal long-term cost to his health or sanity, but first must travel into hell and face Cenobites… {the players take control of the Cenobites and try to defeat Maxwell there in Hell, to keep his soul forever…}
  • {Ultra RARE} – The Blood of Dracula – once consumed, our hero becomes the reincarnation of the ultimate evil… his mission changes to trying to assume dominion over the Manor to continue its malevolent work within the realm…

Mechanics ~ movement & pacing, attributes, abilities, experience, progression

Each game of {Maxwell} is meant to be played in under an hour. ~ 20-40 minutes of play, depending on difficulty setting and pacing. The full gameplay experience and multiplayer options can be customized – difficulty {damage of monsters and Maxwell, availability of healing, increased costs of artifact usage, time limit, less time to endgame}.

Environments within the game are semi-destructible and practically every object can be interacted with. Blood and gore effects can be raised or lowered – at the highest settings, Maxwell and the monsters both can be dismembered and eviscerated.

The playthrough of every game is logged for all of the relevant statistics and timing – number of kills by Maxwell, who killed Maxwell, which artifacts were used or just recovered or were taken by the monsters, how many times Maxwell was injured or disarmed or knocked onto his ass, etc. When Max kills a monster, slow-motion replays are watchable from a third-person perspective. Whichever monster is responsible for killing Maxwell gets their own grotesque animation detailing the hero’s demise. When Max is able to escape the manor with at least one artifact in hand and ‘win’ the game, the Manor is destroyed, imploding Poltergeist style in on itself, causing all of the darkness within to perish forever.

Gameplay

~ examples and loops and modes

Example 1: Maxwell enters the house and his leg is instantly cut by a tag team alpha strike by Gamby and Goon. From there he is slowed and gets caught in some spider demon webbing. He finds the Sword of Shambala and kills Goon with it, then finds the Etherling in a closet, who tries to shut the door on him. He slashes through it and cuts off the Etherling’s screaming head, the glow in its eyes leaving. From behind he is stabbed by Goon, who has found his scythe. Maxwell nearly bleeds out but finds the Amulet and heals up partially. Unfortunately, he wanders into the library, which is dark this game, and is paralyzed by the spider. The ghost arrives just as he recovers, scaring and stunning him. Goon hears the commotion and returns, to finish off Maxwell with his scythe, wetting his cap Max’s lifeblood and pouring one out for his fallen companion…

Example 2: Maxwell enters through the sunroof and catches Pajak the spider off-guard, still spinning her web in the second room he enters, the dining room. He dispatches it with a head shot. That player is out for the game granted they didn’t have any time to lay eggs… In the study, Max finds some lore on the Eye of Ejji, learning it lies in the basement. Additionally, he finds ectoplasm, which indicates the apparition is nearby.

As he makes his way down the stairs to the first floor, a jar of marbles is thrown from a nearby room and nearly causes Max to fall down them. At the bottom of the stairs, the apparition appears with wide glowing eyes and elongated jaw, using its scare ability on Max. He loses sanity but manages to fight it off with his crucifix. It recedes into the darkness. Before heading in to the basement, Max’s eye is drawn to a nearby bedroom, where a green glow appears on the nightstand. It’s the phylactery of the apparition. But as soon as he walks into the room, he is ambushed by Gamby and Goon together, one of whom stabs him in the arm, causing him to drop his crucifix. The other takes it. But not before he shoots it in the back of the head with his revolver, its body dropping limply and the crucifix sliding out of its hand onto the wooden flooring. Quickly he retrieves his crucifix, and fires at the other goblin while it shrieks and retreats from the room. He misses, wasting another valuable bullet in the melee.

Max destroys the phylactery and a ghostly scream fades throughout the Manor. Moments later, the door suddenly slams him into darkness and his sanity drops. He runs to it to open it back up and let the light from the hall in . No sign of danger. He heads down to the basement. Spider-webs appear but no sign of that second Pajak, yet. Max finds the Amulet, the Book and the Eye within the basement and its neighboring rooms. The Amulet houses a scare that lowers his sanity a bit, causing him to slow and become dizzy for 60 seconds. He doesn’t read the book but he does take the time to remove his eye and gain the powers of Ejji.

In the upstairs, he finds the Pyramid, the Light and the Sword, but not until after facing off against Pajak, who has set a trap near the pyramid. He is headshotted and reeled in by the spider to be killed. But at the last moment, Max fights free and shoots two rounds into the spider’s face. It falls from its web, dead. Maxwell uses the amulet to recover health, and with the Eye spots where the Etherling is, in a room on the third floor. But the skull appears nearby and so with his discovery of it starts the endgame. The player who played Pajak is selected to fight with the wolf. It crashes into the main area below the stair well and rushed up the stairs to kill Max. He sets the pyramid down and sets a trap of his own, knowing it is rushing him from the sound. He waits and steadies his him with the revolver. But he doesn’t have any silver bullets! He didn’t find any in his searching. Or maybe he did, and just didn’t see them and pick them up. This means he will have to escape, unable to ultimately kill the wolf.

He’s on the second story and the windows are barred here. He needs to make it to the first story, past the wolf. He plans to damage it with revolver and crucifix, and use the distraction of the trap to get around it. It attacks him, he fires, lets the trap do its work and then makes a run for it. But the remaining red cap appears in the hallway, he has the scythe and the help of a third Pajak spider weaving a web to block his path in the hallway. The wolf leaps at him from behind as he hesitates at the top of the stairwell weighing his options. He fires a potshot toward the redcap, winging him but not killing him. Both he and the spider scurry towards him too. In an act of desperation, Max leaps over the railing of the stairs of the second story and onto the chandelier. Instantly, it falls, supporting his weight but controlled by the Etherling, never found and killed. The fall leaves Max with low health, glass shards in his arms and his legs injured. He limps toward the nearby front door, hoping to exit with his artifacts, the skull of doom pocketed. The Wolf leaps down too and claws him in the back, his health critical. The spider and the redcap come down stairs hoping to join the fray. The spider prepares to fire a web shot towards him. Max aims and headshots it, killing it instantly. The trade off is that he’s tackled into the wall and begins to get clawed by the Wolf. He holds his crucifix up to its face and it just bites it unaffected by its ward. Max fires three more rounds, the last of his clip into the wolf, stunning it but not breaking much more than the surface of its fur. Out of ammo and in no shape to reload, Max throws the spent revolver at the redcap, its scythe raised for a killing blow. It slams into its head stunning it. The wolf recovers and bears down again on Max, ready to finish the job. Max knows this is his last chance. He rears back with the bladed crucifix and shoves its point into the mouth of the wolf and pushes it off with a quip and a scream, leaving it embedded in its bleeding mouth of razor sharp and elongated teeth. Unarmed and bleeding out, Max runs to the door and opens it. Our hero escapes, limping down the steps as the threshold is crossed with the skull and other artifacts in hand. The Manor implodes coinciding with the death howl of a wolf as dawn peaks over the surrounding woods.

New high score for the Maxwell player. Replay saved. Slow-mo shots of each kill and moment ready to be viewed by the player screaming over the insanity of that final sequence on the mics…

Special unlockable playable hero character ~

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Ashe from Evil Dead and Army of Darkness

VR-playability and omnidirectional walking pad support coming soon to {Maxwell Manor Reborn} … one day.