Max & the Magic Marker was developed by Press Play (now owned by Microsoft) and published by Microsoft Game Studios. It is currently available on Windows Phone for $.99 USD . It is an XBOX LIVE game and is available in the Marketplace (here).
Max & the Magic Marker is a creative offering from Press Play, that is part platformer and part physics based puzzle game. It was a launch title for Windows Phone, first being offered for the price of $6.99. It’s been almost two years since then, and the Windows Phone marketplace has grown significantly. Does Max & the Magic Marker stand the test of time? If you are new to Windows Phone, is this game a worthy purchase?
The story behind Max & the Magic Marker is simple, and is viewed by the player in a short animatic. Max is a regular kid who likes to draw. He gets a mysterious package in the mail, and opens it to find an orange marker. So he does what any kid would do with a marker: he draws with it.
Max creates a drawing of a monster that comes to life on the paper and starts messing with Max’s other drawings. For some reason, the monster is purple. How the heck did that happen? The marker is orange! But I digress… The monster must be stopped! So Max draws himself, and now we have a hero in the drawing to defeat the monster.
The idea behind the gameplay is simple. Max must traverse several worlds in pursuit of the monster. Most levels consist of you collecting ink and using that ink to find ways to get through the level. Every once in a while the monster comes and vacuums all of your ink away, making you have to collect ink again.
Max is aided by his real world version, drawing shapes and objects with the ink collected. These shapes become “real” in the paper world and are governed by the physics of that world. If a big ball is drawn and dropped from the sky it will land with more force than a small ball would have.
This creates a very interesting dynamic. Playing the game almost feels like teamwork, but the person you’re teaming up with is yourself.
To aid in your ability to help yourself, the developers give you the ability to freeze time. This allows you to draw shapes without the physics affecting it until you start time back up again. This becomes very useful when you want to draw platforms under Max while he’s in the middle of a jump or when you’re low on ink and need to pass several sections. You can pass one section, freeze time, reclaim your ink, and then draw an object to help you for the next section.
As a platformer, the game is very simple and straightforward. Max can run, jump, push, pull, and climb. He uses these skills, along with the drawn shapes, to conquer the obstacles put in front of him.
Here’s what we liked:
Easy to learn – While the idea behind the game may sound a little complex, the actual playing of the game is very straightforward. Anybody familiar with the most basic of platformers should be able to navigate this game with ease within seconds.
The use of the marker is also easy to understand. Press Play did a great job of making the act of drawing feel very natural. The physics on the drawn objects are easy to understand.
There are little green pear shaped guys that give you hints throughout the game, and on the Easy level, there are dotted lines that pretty much tell you where to draw. But you don’t want to use those, do you?
Innovative game mechanic – Drawing is cool. Drawing, and having those shapes become physical objects is even cooler. Interacting with those physical objects with your teammate, who also happens to be you, is even more awesome.
Terrific art direction –Max & the Magic Marker just looks like a highly polished quality product. This doesn’t look like someone’s personal low budget technical experiment. It’s obvious that Press Play put a lot of love and care into the look of the characters, and how they animate.
It’s super cheap – It’s 99 cents now, for goodness’ sakes!
Here’s what we didn’t like:
Skimpy narrative – After seeing the initial animatic introduction of the game, I was expecting to see additional animatics showing the progress of the story as I passed each stage. That didn’t happen. So passing each stage was a little anticlimactic.
No enemy AI – Enemies moved in predictable patterns. That limited the challenge of the game.
Overall, Max & the Magic Marker was an enjoyable game to play. Even after the Windows Phone marketplace has had two years to build up, it could still count itself as one of the more fun and creative games available on Windows Phone. At a price of 99 cents, it’s hard to beat.
Score: Buy it. Follow this link or scan the code below to get the full version.