Max and the Magic Marker Review

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Max and the Magic Marker Publisher: Press Play
Developer: Press Play

Platforms: Wii and PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium III processor, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 9 compatible video card, 200 MB HD space, internet connection

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson is easily one of the best children's books of all time. Harold, a small child in his sleeper, creates his own world with only a purple crayon. Everything he can imagine, he draws and it comes to life (whether in his imagination or real life, just doesn't matter). It's a lovely book, both entertaining and inspiring in its exploration of the imagination. Max and the Magic Marker is essentially the same, except the boy is named Max, his drawing implement is orange, and in the world of his imagination, he only draws staircases and teeter-totters to jump up high enough to gather irrelevant collectibles.

Kyle Ackerman

Max is a disturbed child. The first thing he does when he receives a mysteriously magical marker in the mail is draw a monster. That monster began to run amok, moving from drawing to drawing, warping Max's imaginative worlds. To face the threat head-on, Max uses his magical orange marker to draw himself into the world of his drawings and defeat the purple monster. As a gimmick for physics-based platforming, the idea behind Max and the Magic Marker works brilliantly. When paused, the screen transforms the somewhat realistic looking world into a sheet of paper covered in a child's scribbles. Max can then draw orange lines that can be used to manipulate or traverse the environment, following (mostly) intuitive rules of physics.

My quibble with Max and the Magic Marker is that collecting gratuitous objects seems more important than actually completing the levels, and while there are often more elegant solutions to the game's quandaries, nearly everything in the game can be conquered by drawing a ladder or a line bridge. If it's only about completing levels, most of the time it's just a matter of moving far enough to the side of the screen to see the object or ledge that will anchor a line bridge. Sometimes you have to draw a line that will move across rollers, or that you can ride up a whale's spout, but it typically comes down to drawing a line to cross between points. There just aren't that many puzzles that really require creative thinking.

Particularly in the late game there are a few clever puzzles, but Max and the Magic Marker would have been far more interesting had it required the player to come up with more complicated contraptions. Instead, the level design focuses on limiting the amount of ink to which Max has access, forcing players to draw several short bridges instead of bypassing an entire region with one long bridge. After each brief segment, the purple monster appears and vacuums away Max's ink, forcing him to start anew. If you want to gather 100% of the collectibles, there is a bit of a challenge, but more due to ink limitations than the need for creative problem solving.

There are also technical issues. The fact that the maximum resolution is limited to 1024 x 768 is more a disappointment than a problem, but the game had regular crashes on multiple computers, and confusing menus. Max is a cute, red-headed kid with plenty of untapped artistic ability, but there are other games out there that make far more interesting use of physics-based platforming puzzles.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on August 9, 2010 3:41 PM.

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