A child’s imagination is a powerful thing, and none more powerful than young Max, the titular hero of Press Play’s WiiWare title. One day, Max receives a mysterious marker pen (or felt tip, if you’re a traditionalist) through the post, and he’s amazed to find that everything he draws with it comes to life.
Unfortunately the first thing he doodles before he realises this is an evil monster wearing a Crested Centurion’s Helm. The creation promptly makes it off the page and into the real world, wrecking havoc on the neighbourhood. Cue Max starting his adventure to put things right, wielding the Magic Marker to help him.
The game takes place over numerous scrolling stages where the player must use the Nunchuck to control Max and the Wii Remote to control the Marker. This can be used to draw shapes and overcome obstacles or enemies – for example lines can be drawn to help Max cross expanses of water, steps drawn to climb up over obstacles, and boulders which can be dropped on enemies from on high or used to trigger see-saws.
Ink for the marker is limited so it must either be collected before it can be used, or the remote can be shaken to gather up ink that’s already been used to draw things in the environment. At each of the numerous checkpoints Max’s original monster appears and sucks all the currently gained ink from the Marker. While this gets repetitive quite quickly, it’s clearly a necessary mechanic to maintain some level of challenge and prevent the player being able to run riot with huge reserves of ink.
Drawing can be done in real time, but there’s also the option to flip Max back into the real world, stopping the action. This comes complete with the whole level (Max included) becoming little more than child-like doodles on the screen. Not only is this a rather heart-warming depiction of the adventure, but it’s also a necessity when dealing with some of the faster moving aspects of the level such as conveyor belts or water fountains.
The puzzles in Max & the Magic Marker quickly tend to become variations on a theme and while there is some element of weight and physics behind them, at some points players will be a little frustrated that they can’t move their tangible drawings around. Often the physics take over more than they should, meaning a drawn platform will shift or swing about unexpectedly. Anyone who’s played Scribblenauts will certainly hanker for the option to place their drawings back where they wanted them, rather than having to rub them out and start again. While it’s a little unfair to judge Max based on another game on a different format, there’s no doubt that players will share this frustration at some point.
Regardless of its flaws, Max & the Magic Marker is bright, bouncy adventure with a great mechanic that will certainly entertain you while it lasts. It’s also guaranteed to bring a heart warming smile to your face at least once, something that is still a rarity in gaming these days and a thing to be admired.