January 9, 2012 2:39 AM | Cassandra Khaw
[While the new Indie Royale game bundle that we co-created with Desura is running, we'll be profiling each of the four games featured in it, giving our honest opinion on the pluses and minuses of each title. At this ungodly hour, we check out Max & the Magic Marker - a charming little physics-platformer from press Play. ]
Games like Max & the Magic Marker aren't a dime a dozen but they're definitely not uncommon. We've seen them in various forms and on a fair number of consoles. Browser-based Flash game Sketch Quest, for example, is a personal favorite. Still, that doesn't stop this port of Press Play's adorable little platformer/puzzler from being a decent way to wile away a few hours.
The first thing you'll probably notice about Max & the Magic Marker is the fact that it's kinda easy. It could just be me. After all, much like any other kid from the 80s, I was raised on a Mega Man diet. When I see the term 'platform' associated with a game, I expect deaths in the double digits.
Don't get me wrong, though. The game isn't a complete walk in the park but Super Meat Boy veterans will probably blitz through this one. Fortunately, the platforming bit isn't the central element here. As you might have guessed from the title already, Max & the Magic Marker will not only have you bouncing from platform to platform in a desperate attempt to eradicate the eggplant-shaped monster that the lead character had brought to life (true story!), it'll also let you make use of a magic marker.
I really liked the approach they used. Your cursor is the aforementioned writing utensil. To use it, you need to first fill it up by locating orange ink-laden orbs. After that, the sky's the limit. So long as you have ink in your pen, you'll be able to draw anything. By the way, you have the option of choosing to freeze the world or sketching in real-time. It's entirely up to you. If you choose the latter, the world freezes up and transmogrifies into something that wouldn't look amiss on a particularly artistic prepubescent kid's sketch pad. The process is seamless and it feels perfectly integrated into the game.
Unfortunately, however, it also feels as though the developers haven't fully explored the possibilities that the mechanic offers. You spend most of your time in Max & the Magic Marker drawing stuff like counterweights, bridges, sleds and staircases. There's a fair number of puzzles to work through and a few of them are decently difficult but I personally would have preferred a bit more variation to the whole affair.
Grousing aside, Max & the Magic Marker is a polished offering. The graphics are clean, bright, child-friendly - the kind of stuff you expect to see in a well-funded Saturday Morning cartoon. The animation is slick, the controls receptive. It also has a few good ideas. I particularly enjoyed the way they handled collectibles. At times, you just need to find them. Other times, you'll need to do something like peeking out of a photo frame.
If you haven't checked out the previous incarnations before, I totally recommend making this your first pick. Otherwise, well, keep it for a nephew's birthday present. He'll love it. I promise.
Official website here, and you can buy it as part of Indie Royale's 'New Year Bundle' for the next few days.