Max & the Magic Marker

March 11, 2010

Denmark-based developer Press Play is trying really, really hard to make their game the next indie hit. How? By borrowing elements from lots of other small-team hits. And it ends up working fairly well.

Max & the Magic Marker‘s concept is simple: Max traverses areas, collecting items and avoiding enemies with the help of a Magic Marker drawing shapes that Max can jump on or kill baddies with. It sounds like a cross of Drawn to Life and Crayon Physics and, well, it is. And unabashedly so. Here’s the story: Max is a kid who loves to draw. One day, he gets an orange marker in the mail, so he draws a monster with it. The monster comes to life and starts wreaking havoc, so Max decides he has to stop it.

Games have had problems controlling a person and the environment at the same time. (We’re looking at you, Scribblenauts.) Max actually does this flawlessly. The Nunchuk controls Max (Z jumps, C grabs and pulls). The remote controls the marker.  

The whole thing takes place in Max’s imagination as he doodles, so you can move and draw at the same time or, if you choose, pause the action and draw in the real world. This seems like “easy mode” to some, but it really adds another layer of strategy, since you can pause and draw things under Max mid-jump, or create suspended platforms to save him from a fall. Of course, even if you don’t want to use it for gameplay, the real world view shows everything in childish drawings, and it’s just a cool effect. The world of imagination is lush, and the worlds of Max’s mind are a lot like what you’d expect a kid to think about.

The menus are reminiscent of World of Goo. As in, it seems they took the menus and swapped out some graphics here and there but left everything where it was. It even borrows Goo‘s idea of making exceptional performance in levels unlock more supplies for a “playground” area. Of course, World of Goo is one of the most successful WiiWare releases, and the most like Max, so who can blame them?

Of course, all games have their shortcomings, and this one has one main one: length. There are only fifteen levels in the game. There’s a little value in replaying levels to collect everything, but pretty much it’s a one-and-done title. The 1000-point price tag is reasonable, though. If it had something that made it worth leaving on the system, it’d be one of the best games of the year. Being a lot of fun for a little while is still good, though.

Score: 4/5

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