A platformer that seems perfect for touchscreen play, could be a little late to the party…
My wife and I were in a heated debate the other day about how I thought the game should actually be called ‘Max and the magic ‘Magic’ marker’, as – to graphic designers like my self at least – a Magic marker is a brand name, that has become a generic term for any marker. Of course, like most level headed women she called me an idiot. Harsh but fair as I always say!
So, for any of you that I have now confused, this game is not a story of a boy and his standard generic marker. No, this is about a boy and an actual ‘Magic’ marker, with mystical powers.
Originally released last year (2010) for the Wii, the game sees you control Max through platforming environments, with the aid of your magical marker to aid you in crossing various obstacles. There is a story here of course, something about Max having drawn a nasty monster with said pen, and it coming to life in his drawings. Max then draws himself to go after the monster, and put things right. But, really its just an excuse for some pretty impressive physics based platforming.
In each of the 58 levels available, you must collect balls of ink to fill (power-up) your marker by moving him left or right through the environment and jumping or climbing over obstacles. Only then can you unleash the magic within and get to the level exit. Generally the marker is used to create platforms for Max, allowing you to cross areas too big for him to jump, as well as reaching high platforms. You can create any shape, as big as your ink level will allow, with other uses such as the ability to create weights to propel you upwards when on a see-saw, squash baddies, or create a shield around Max to protect him from rain (With Max being a drawing, water washes him away).
The marker can be deployed at any time by simply pressing on the screen and drawing your shape. However, the more challenging puzzles require you to play with time itself. During the game, you can pause it at any time, turning the nicely drawn cartoon world into a more sketch-like look. Here, all time stands still, allowing you to draw without it being affected by both moving obstacles or gravity. For example, a water spout will simply knock the drawn platform immediately in the air. However, by hitting the jump button for Max and pausing him in mid-air above the spout, you can draw a platform between him and the water. Hitting play, will then see Max safely riding the water spout aloft the freshly drawn platform.
Controls work well for the most part, however both the iPad and iPhone have their drawbacks. The onscreen control for moving max work fine on the iPhone, however they are not quite in the right position on iPad, and are a little far apart for comfortable play (a problem with many platformers on the system. Whereas controlling the marker on the iPad is far easier than on the iPhone, thanks to the larger screen. Both drawbacks won’t hamper your enjoyment drastically, but with this largely being about drawing, the iPad wins out as the best edition of the game in my book, despite the higher price point.
Graphically, the game boasts some great physics effects, all presented in a fun cartoon look with smooth animation. As much as I like the style, I prefer the more sketchy look of the pause mode, and would have liked to see this feature more prominently, as it had more character. As for characters, Max himself is nice enough hero, and the little creatures, both good and bad are also fun.
Overall then, and Max and the Magic Marker is a great platforming title with a fun cool gameplay twist. It doesn’t quite seem as fresh an idea as it did on Wii over a year ago, especially with many unique physics games already on the AppStore and on other consoles since, such as Super Scribblenaughts. The direct control over the marker is impressive, and certainly more immersive than waggling with the Wiimote. However, as cool as it is, it soon gets old, as you do find yourself repeating the same solutions over and over, especially towards the later levels.
Anyone looking for a more unique casual platformer though, would be mad to miss it, especially if you are an iPad owner.