3 February 2010

Review: Max and the Magic Marker


It's not often I buy a WiiWare game. For my money the only one worth the Wii points has been World of Goo (though I did buy Swords and Soldiers and Bomberman Blast). World of Goo is now joined by Max and the Magic Marker.

Max is the story of a young boy who receives a marker pen in the post without any explanation to its function. He draws a monster with it and this monster comes to life and escapes from the paper! Max now needs to get him back and you might need to use that magic marker to help you with the puzzles along your way...

The game is ideal for the Wii. It uses the Wiimote as the marker pen, and the Nunchuk as the joystick to direct Max where you need him to go. Its standard platformer action is good enough as it is, but then there are areas that are too difficult to reach with the normal jumping behaviour and this is where the magic marker comes in to play. You can draw a staircase for Max to climb, or a block to drop on the head of the pesky purple monsters. It gets more intricate though, if you draw multiple lines that cross they get "glued" together to form a single object to enable you to go a bit further with the designs needed and then there's another twist. You can hold down the A and B buttons to freeze the action whereupon the graphics transform into a kid's drawing style. At this point you can draw at your leisure and when you unfreeze your drawing is in there already. This allows you to jump in the air, freeze, draw a box under Max, unfreeze and have him land on the box. He could then jump again, you freeze and draw an additional platform under Max's feet and so climb up the screen in this way.

The learning curve is well-adjusted. My son Finn who is nearly seven loves it and it makes a nice change from shooting games. With the simple introduction of the puzzles including signposts giving you a hint what to do the first few times you encounter a new puzzle, the fun of the game is not tempered by the frustration of failing to know what to do to reach your objective.

The game has crashed a couple of times, and a couple of times the camera has zoomed off to an area where you can no longer see Max or your marker and your only recourse is to restart the level you are on, but even this doesn't stop the game from being extremely polished in only 40MB (the maximum allowed on the WiiWare shop). The graphics are pretty and clear in both the normal and frozen "kid's drawing" versions, and the sound effects and music are very well-chosen.

Lastly, on the Press Play website there is a demo of Max playable on your computer (not on the Wii itself), that uses the free 3D engine Unity. Have a look and I'm prepared to bet that you too will shell out the 1,000 Wii points necessary to buy the game... 4/5

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