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Max & the Magic Marker Review

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On 03/13/2010 at 12:30 PM by Jason Ross

Can Max and his Magic Marker draw their way into your heart?

Max and the Magic Marker would make a great family title, offering sophisticated puzzles and platforming that might be a little simple and tedious for older gamers, but a bit too challenging to younger ones. Those who enjoy finding the fanciest or quickest way from point "A" to point "B" will also enjoy the title.

Playing Max and the Magic Marker, I've found, is both an act of joy and frustration. It's a unique, colorful title, with its own imaginary world where the hero, Max, of course, dashes through to chase and defeat "the monster" Max accidentally created with his magic marker. The title focuses on physics-based puzzle-solving and platforming, though there's a little bit of exploration in the mix.

Gameplay consists of Max drawing himself platforms and creating ways to cross a large chasm or climb a tall cliff, though these ideas are vastly complicated, especially in later stages, with various physics and resource based puzzles. Fortunately for both Max and the player, any ink drawn can be reused and repurposed, so trial-and-error progression is certainly encouraged and really is the heart of title.

There's a lot of fun to be had with drawing on screen, just to explore the physics and the practice of getting Max place to place. Even better, the game has an unlockable "Full Marker" mode, allowing players to be a bit less concerned with resources, but rather, move through the stages however they want.

Still, challenge is found while pioneering towards checkpoints or the stage's goal with limited marker ink. I'd say I spent most of the first world, along with parts of the second learning the best way to draw a platform for Max to traverse. Each time I came up with a more efficient design or learned a new trick, it was accompanied with a sense of satisfaction and an urge to test out the method in forthcoming challenges.

While the game challenges players to learn the best ways to take Max through the stages and worlds, Max and the Magic Marker manages to cater both to gamers who like a bit of exploration and those who like to speed through stages. To make platforming and puzzle solving easier, players can go a bit out of their way to collect more marker ink, found in orbs on stage. However, most of the sense of exploration comes from the other two types of orbs, one common, one rare, but both typically collected by sending Max to explore the far reaches of each stage.

Though I initially focused on finding these orbs, I also found it an enjoyable experience to direct Max through each stage as quickly as possible. Press Play has encouraged speedy platforming and skill-based play by challenging the player to beat a stage within a limited amount of time. Personally, I found the game was at its sharpest when I sped through a stage, requiring precise drawing and platforming at high speeds. Gamers who do go out of their way to collect orbs and beat stages in record time are rewarded with things like the "Full Marker" mode mentioned above.

Despite its originality and creativity, the game has a few issues, some which interrupt gameplay and force the player to reset the stage. The worst issue I faced involved a hatch-like door that Max opens by placing a weight on a switch. In this case, as the hatch came on the screen, it actually was placed backwards, so it was coming out of the wrong wall, and pressing the switch didn't cause the hatch to budge at all. Every time I directed Max to jump down and try to pass through it, he'd get stuck, then have to restart the stage. Instead, I found I had to direct Max backwards, removing the hatch from the screen, and then return back, hoping the hatch had been placed correctly. This seemed to be the only major, gamebreaking problem I faced in my playthrough, but similar, albeit, little issues with enemy and object placement did occur from time to time.

In addition, problems with Max's Marker can be a bit of an annoyance. When pausing the game to draw a platform, perhaps to save Max from falling into a pit or just to add a platform under Max so he can scale a cliff, once in a while, the platform would disappear upon resuming normal time, resulting in death or a loss of progress.

The game forces ink to disappear when the player draws through Max, an enemy, or a platform, but it typically does so immediately, rather than wait until gameplay is resumed, so the player can keep Max on solid footing without guesswork. In a few cases, upon resuming normal time, the lines I just drew would vanish due to Max's momentum, and send him plummeting to doom.

Additionally, even though the traces of the marker are meant to work as walls or platforms, sometimes when pushing them, or running against them, the game will glitch, and Max, deadly rain, or enemies will slip through, causing unintentional death. Once, I placed Max in a circle of ink, ran forward, and suddenly the screen teleported to an earlier place on the stage, but left me with no control of Max!

The gameplay of Max and the Magic Marker is solid, and certainly enjoyable, but I fear most gamers would find the apparent glitches quite a bit off-putting. I'd say the game almost certainly would fit well in a family setting. In fact, since Max's controls are limited to the Nunchuk, it's conceivable two people could play the game together, parent and child, perhaps, for an enjoyable experience. Still, those who decide to purchase Max and the Magic Marker should be prepared to deal with the flaws that come with the game's drawing freedom.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.



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