Let’s start this review of Max and the Magic Marker with another one of my moments of reminiscing about gaming in days gone by. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s Britain was well known for its bedroom programmers. Back in the good old personal computing days of the BBC Micro and Sinclair Spectrum, it was possible for you program your own games right out of the box (providing you knew how to program or were willing to learn that is). This continued up until the mid-1990’s when game development finally became out of reach for a typical home computer user. The indie game movement we have today evolved from the public domain movement from back then; small groups or individuals who have a great game idea but for one reason or another design and make it themselves.
It’s great to see that rather than disappear into obscurity onto PC message boards, the indie movement has instead moved onto the home consoles; something I wouldn’t have thought possible with such domineering companies such as Nintendo; Microsoft and Sony ruling the console roosts. So whilst nowadays I’d wager that zero games appearing on the Wii, 360 or PS3 were developed in somebodies bedroom. We at least still have some great talent producing low budget games that don’t spawn from the gaming equivalent of factory farming. Yes I’m looking at you Ubisoft and your range of shovelware all ending in Z.
Ok so what has this got to do with Max and the Magic Marker? Well probably not too much besides the fact that Press Play; the developers behind Max and the Magic Marker for Wii are one such indie development group. Unable to get their title picked up by a big publisher, they stuck it to the man and decided to publish it themselves digitally through the Nintendo WiiWare service.
If you’ve played other indie games on WiiWare such as World of Goo then you’ll instantly feel at home after booting Max and the Magic Marker. This isn’t just because like 2D Boy’s Goo filled masterpiece that the graphics are somewhat kiddie; no it’s because you can instantly tell that care has been taken every step along the way in making this game. This isn’t something you just see with your eyes but feel when you start to control Max and his Magic Marker. The story of Max and the Magic Marker goes like this; Max is a young red haired child who loves to draw. Out of the blue one day he anonymously receives a new drawing pen; without thinking anything of it he rushes to work on a new piece of art featuring a purple Monster. To his surprise the Monster suddenly comes to life, then starts to run amok through Max’s other drawings.
Now of course you and I would solve this problem by putting all of the drawings through the paper shredder but Max is much more imaginative and has simple yet far better plan. Max draws a picture of himself using his new magical marker thereby allowing him to come alive in the world of his drawings and chase after that purple Monster. Will max manage to defeat the Monster and return home safely with only the use of his Magical Marker? Well I know the answer but I’m not going to spoil that now but what I can say is that I really enjoyed this game. Time to look a bit more in depth isn’t it?
You take control of the aforementioned Max with your Nunchuck and his Marker with your Wii Remote in this colourful magical adventure spread across three worlds. If like me you played Drawn to Life then you too may have been disappointed that you actually were tending to colour in shapes rather than really draw unique aspects to the game. Max & The Magic Marker is a little different in that you only draw things to assist you getting Max to the end of the level safely. So these could be staircases to reach higher platforms, weights to tip a seesaw, bridges to cross chasms or even basic platforms. I’d agree in saying that it sounds rather basic but this is actually just where the fun starts.
Simply drawing a few bridges isn’t going to impress anyone, no matter how well the Wii Infra-Red pointer control has been adopted. Max must collect globules of ink as he progresses throughout each level, the more ink he has the bigger your drawings can be. For instance, to reach a collectable up high you will might need to build a large staircase but if you didn’t collect every ink container that you passed you may find yourself with not enough ink to make it tall enough. This obviously corresponds further into the game when drawing a long bridge; there’s just no way to cross a large gap with only a small bridge right?
Well wrong actually, large gaps are no match for Max and his Magic Marker. At any point the a level you can press the A + B buttons together to warp out of the picture back into the real world where the real Max is on hand to physically draw on the paper (rather than being in game). This confusing trans-dimensional concept actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it and even if it doesn’t make sense, well it’s damn useful. Here instead of drawling inside a live living piece of artwork you can draw onto it statically before warping back in. What does this mean? Well to put it simply it means that when facing a large chasm and not much ink you can draw half of the bridge you require, make Max run across it and jump towards nothing and then hit the A and B button to warp out. Here you erase the old section of bridge and draw in the missing half so that when you warp back into the game Max lands safely. Clever stuff.
I could go on further about what to expect but that would only spoil a rather unique adventure which you should experience yourself. I’m sure that other fans of World of Goo, Lost Winds and Braid will really feel comfortable with this game. All that’s for me to say is that Max and The Magic Marker is a sensational concept title which maybe a little short but more than makes up for it with some crazy platforming antics; clever physics based puzzles and just a clever down to Earth charm about it. Max and the Magic Marker for WiiWare scores an almost perfect 8 out of 10
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