Review: Max & the Magic Marker (WiiWare)

A beautiful piece of art or a worthless doodle?

Games involving drawing seem to be incredibly popular nowadays. With the DS's touch screen and Wii Remote's pointer both allowing rather precise drawing, it's pretty obvious to see why. Although it's a bit late to the party, Max & the Magic Marker keeps things pretty basic: it's a fairly straightforward platformer in which you can draw objects to help you reach otherwise inaccessible areas.

The storyline is pretty simple, but explains how the gameplay came about. One day, Max gets a magical marker in the mail. He draws an evil monster, which comes alive and escapes into the rest of his drawings; in retaliation, Max draws a crude version of himself to give chase. Of course, he is also able to draw crude objects to help himself out.

Drawing different shapes doesn't really make a difference. Each drawing has the exact same feel to it and will act pretty much the same, falling down as fast as it can unless there's a solid surface below it. Therefore you can forget about making trampolines and boats - if they're not already part of the level, you won't be using them. You'll have to keep things simple, with crude staircases, small "boxes," very thin bridges and ramps, those sorts of things. If you ever miss up it's as simple as pointing at your drawing and pressing (B); it'll disappear and all the ink will go back into the marker.

Platforms aren't the only thing you'll use ink for, however. If you use more ink on a particular drawing, it'll become heavier, which is perfect for launching yourself off a seesaw or crushing an enemy. Or maybe there's a ball you need to bounce somewhere - simply create a slanted wall for it to bounce off and you're good to go. A handy feature at times is the ability to freeze time: pressing (A) and (B) together will put everything at a complete stop, allowing you to examine the scene, drawing and erasing lines as you please and unfreezing when everything is just right.

The progression in each level is fairly straightforward. At the beginning of a level, Max has no ink in his marker, which means he must collect some in order to be able to draw objects. After getting enough to draw some decently sized items, he can use the ink to reach the next checkpoint, where the monster he created will appear with a vacuum and steal all of his ink, basically putting him back to square one. This happens multiple times in each level, and you'll only very rarely be able to fill up the marker completely.

The game consists of three worlds, each with five levels. They're all nicely sized and stuffed with things to come back for, with plenty of collectibles (some of which are quite well-hidden). Each stage also has a challenge time that will award you with a prize when beaten. Obtaining a lot of the game's collectibles will unlock a handful of special bonus features, so get looking (and running)!

The game's graphics are nice and colourful, as is to be expected from a game about drawing. When you freeze time, everything will also be temporarily presented in a more childish doodle form, which is of course even more fitting. The music is pretty weird, consisting of some upbeat tracks which change as you get further through levels. It's actually pretty good, but it can get a little repetitive when you're stuck on a particular part of a stage and it keeps looping over and over.

One small but noticeable issue is the game's framerate. Almost all the time, you can notice a little bit of lag, and some players have even reported that the game randomly froze for them. It didn't happen for us, but it is something to be cautious about. What might be annoying for new players is that already existing platforms and objects have fairly large hitboxes - if you're trying to put something on them, make sure to steer clear of the platform's edges, because if you hit them, your drawing will end immediately, meaning you'll have to erase it and try again. With time, however, you'll learn to take this into consideration.


Although it doesn't really do anything other "drawing" games haven't already done before, Max & the Magic Marker is a very enjoyable and sizeable platforming romp, and one you'll definitely want to see through to the end. The collectibles will keep you coming back until you've got 100%, which can be pretty challenging, but it will be worth it.

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