Max and the Magic Marker represents a change in the action-adventure genre of gaming with a not so subtle change in how you tackle the in-game obstacles. Max receives a marker in the mail that will allow anything he draws to come to life, for better or for worse. Obviously the first time Max realizes the power of the magic marker is after he was being a normal child drawing monsters and other little boy things. Nothing out of the ordinary here at least until the monsters stand up from the page and enter the real world.
Press Play have gone all out with Max and the Magic Marker and paid attention to the greats in the side scrolling games genre and taken some basic elements and turned others on their ear. For instance while Max can, and needs to, jump on platforms that are genre standard, sometimes getting to those platforms is not so standard. Another unique method of play is the way you dispatch enemies. To defeat enemies, you guide Max to a safe location on the screen, if there is one, and draw an object to drop on the enemies (no matter how hard I tried, everything I drew came out as a blob). The key here is how much ink you use for the object in question and the height it drops from. The ink, ah yes, the orangish stuff you collect in those little bubbles (other things you are collecting are secrets in blackish bubbles and “ideas” in the blueish-silver ones). You have to have ink to do anything with the marker so don’t pass up any of them.
Other innovative uses of the marker are abundant and even sometimes outside the box. Come to a chasm that Max just cannot jump across, just draw a bridge to span the pit and walk across. Same thing for items that are placed too high to reach by normal jumping, draw a staircase or whatever you feel is needed to accomplish your goal. Little details like this are all over the game levels so keep an eye out, if you are stuck, you probably aren’t paying attention to the surroundings.
Gravity plays a huge part in the way you are going to complete the various puzzles Max faces. Even though you must keep collecting ink to store up for attacks and completing the puzzles, you won’t get far if you ignore gravity very long. Draw a bridge that doesn’t quite reach the other side and it will just fall. Same thing if you draw a ramp or stairs that don’t rest against something in the level, very interesting situations abound if you didn’t grab every bit of ink in a level. Using gravity to your advantage and you can come up with unique ways to accomplish various tasks. Don’t feel like doing the boring bridge to cross a chasm? Draw a triangle on the ground, put a straight line across it and stand on one end and drop a heavy blob of ink on the other and propel yourself across. Depending on your artistic, and ink, level you may not be able to be so elaborate. Very rarely are you left with a lot more ink than is needed to complete a task at hand.
Music was handled by Analogik who did an awesome job with the in-game tunes. Very fitting to the fun style that Press Play have injected into Max and the Magic Marker. Sound effects are just as noteworthy, water sounds like water, creatures give a good grunt when defeated, etc. The same amount of care that was put into the graphics and gameplay was obviously taken with the music and sound effects which help round out this great game.
The monster you created that started this series of events will periodically drop in and take your ink, don’t worry, this happens at preset locations when you pass a certain sign (only once or twice I had to actually kill myself because I didn’t have ink to do anything to progress). The level design is great and fit in with what you would expect from someone like Nintendo for the most part (Nintendo wouldn’t be so kind as to give quite as many hints as to what to do next for instance). If you are looking for a platformer that recreates that sense of accomplishment most of us felt when we played games like Super Mario Bros for the first time then definitely get Max and the Magic Marker today.
Rated: 8 out of 10
Review by: Carl “triverse” Williams