By Marty Mulrooney
Max & the Magic Marker is a physics based 2D puzzle platformer for WiiWare, PC & Macintosh. The game was created by Press Play – an independent studio based in central Copenhagen, Denmark. It was also recently released for Windows Phone 7.
Players control Max, an orange haired boy with a similarly coloured Magic Marker pen. As shown during the brief introduction, Max is quietly drawing a purple monster when it suddenly comes to life! Literally drawn into his own sketchbook, Max must chase down the monster, solving puzzles along the way with the aid of his trusty Magic Marker.
The game mechanics are simple and change little throughout. Max can move left or right, jump/climb, and push/pull objects. The platforming is very basic. What adds some much-needed flavour to the proceedings is the use of the Magic Marker. Player can collect orange orbs to add ink to their Magic Maker. It can then be used to draw directly onto the various environments.
The drawing mechanic manifests itself in several different ways. Players can build structures to climb to out of reach locations. Enemies can be crushed under falling lumps of ink. Buttons can be pressed… you get the idea. This all seems very basic during the initial levels but becomes far more integral and tricky further down the line.
Players can also freeze the action at any time, causing the entire world to flatten out like a page from Max’s sketchbook. As well as looking really cool, this feature allows the player to doodle without time constraints, which becomes vital later on during the final levels.
There are 3 worlds in Max & the Magic Marker, with each world featuring 5 levels, totalling 15 levels altogether. The levels themselves are well designed and colourful, but sadly lack variety. Each world’s levels are far too alike, giving the impression that there are only three different environments throughout the entire game. The result, combined with the often simplistic gameplay, is repetition that starts to make the experience drag.
Luckily, things do pick up near the end, with the downside being a sudden spike in difficulty. Each level features four collectable black orbs, as well as many more generic white orbs. Collecting all of these presents a huge challenge. Sadly, I didn’t feel enough incentive to do so, instead choosing to focus on working my way through each level as fast as possible. Death sends players back to their most recent checkpoint and luckily these are well spaced out and fairly placed.
The controls are basic but work well. On Wii, players use the Nunchuck’s analogue stick to move Max around, with a press of the Z button doing all the jumping. The WiiMote is used to drawn onto the environment. It feels pretty natural although drawing with the WiiMote can often feel quite tricky. The PC/Mac version fares much better, with customisable controls and the mouse making drawing straight lines a doddle.
The graphics of the PC/Mac version are also a lot sharper, although the WiiWare version still looks great despite its lower resolution. The original soundtrack by Analogik is really catchy too, reminiscent of Terry Scott Taylor’s work on The Neverhood (PC, 1996) but nowhere near as varied.
Overall, Max & the Magic Marker is a good game that ultimately doesn’t offer enough variety beyond its core gameplay mechanics. During its short completion time it remains fun but apart from the final few levels, there isn’t much variety from one world to the next. Still, the production values for such a small indie production are impressive and I look forward to seeing what Press Play do next.
7 OUT OF 10