The kind folks over at Press Play were nice enough to send over a preview build of their upcoming WiiWare puzzle platformer Max & the Magic Marker for us to try out. Now that we've spent several hours playing through the game's 15 levels, we'll give you an idea of what you can expect from this rather unique WiiWare title.
Please keep in mind that this was a preview build of the game and some things might change in the final release of the game.
At the beginning of the game, the first world is already unlocked and you can choose to start at any of the world's five levels. Since the levels tend to offer up bits of information on how the game is played, it's best to start with the first level in order to get your feet wet.
In Max & the Magic Marker you take control of Max and must guide him safely to the exit warp at the end of each level. While Max can run, jump, and even climb ledges, there will be times when he runs into obstacles that can't be traversed with his basic platforming skills alone. Instead you'll have to use the magic marker to draw in certain items to help him out. These can be everything from bridges across water to see-saws that can catapult Max high into the air allowing him to reach certain lofty ledges. You'll quickly find that the marker gives you an almost limitless amount of freedom when it comes to drawing in items for Max to make use of and it plays a key role in being able to successfully navigate through the game's many levels.
Drawing with the marker can be done while in the marination part of the level where things are moving in real time, or you can pause the action by going outside of time where you can pause everything going on inside the level and take your time drawing in all of the items you need in order to get past a certain obstacle. No matter which way you choose to use the marker, they both work equally well, although using the marker outside of time can make drawing and using multiple items at once a lot easier to accomplish.
As you progress through each level, you'll have the opportunity to pick up items such as extra ink for your marker and lightbulbs that are located around each level. You can even go back to the levels later on to try to pick up any items you might have missed the first time around. There are also checkpoints located throughout the levels, but you'll have your marker's ink sucked out by the Vacuum Monster at these checkpoints, which will require you to pick up more ink balls in order to refill it.
The physics in the game are very realistic and even the items you create with the marker accurately reflect the game's physics, so you'll always have a consistent feel whether you're navigating the game's built-in platforms or things you've drawn yourself using the marker. You'll also find that there are generally quite a few different ways to approach these tricky spots in each level, so you'll likely go through a lot of trial and error in order to figure out how to get past certain spots.
The play control of the game is smooth and very responsive, as is drawing with the magic marker. You'll find that it doesn't take much time to get a good feel for the game and once you learn the basics from the tutorials presented in the early levels, you'll quickly find yourself right at home with the game's play control system. The level designs are particularly well done with some of the later levels being quite challenging. While there is only 15 levels, you'll find that many of them take quite a bit of time in order to successfully navigate through them, so don't expect to just blow through the game in one sitting. It's also nice to be able to go back and try to pick up orbs and lightbulbs that you might have missed. It adds a nice touch of replay value to the overall experience.
Visually, Max & the Magic Marker shows a lot of polish, especially for a WiiWare release. There are some gorgeous visuals strung throughout the game and there's really not a bad-looking level in the bunch. It's also quite unique to be able to switch between the two art styles that differentiate Inside the Imagination from the Outside of Time area. It's clear from the moment you begin playing the game that the developers have a good handle on the Wii console's graphical capabilities and the 40MB file size limitation obviously didn't hinder them much when they put together the visuals for the game.
Musically the game is very unique and there are quite a few interesting tracks to enjoy as you play through the game. Some of the tunes are a bit wackier than others, but they all seem to fit the theme of the game quite well. Sound effects are minimal, but in truth there's not a lot of need for them with the type of action taking place. About the only complaint that could be leveled against the game's audio presentation might be that some of the tracks can become a bit repetitive if you find yourself stuck on one particular level for a long period of time.
It's nice to see a developer take some chances with the WiiWare service and Max & the Magic Marker is easily one of the more creative titles to come along so far. Not only is the basic gameplay idea unique and engaging, but the tricky puzzles you'll endure in each of the levels will keep you coming back for more. This is definitely a game WiiWare fans should keep an eye on. It has the potential to be a big hit when it finally arrives on the WiiWare service.
And don't forget to check out that batch of brand new screenshots of the game below on the game page.