Review: Max & the Magic Marker: Gold Edition

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Today’s gamers have a huge field to play in. Be it PC, consoles or mobile gaming, good games can be found on any platform.  Even though good games can be found on any and all platforms, that doesn’t necessarily mean games found on all platforms are all good.

What happens if a game starts out only on one platform and slowly makes a showing on all other platforms?  The independent development team Press Play has done just that with Max & the Magic Marker.  Originally released as a WiiWare title in early 2010, Max has grown as a recognizable title and is now available on all current gaming platforms except for XBLA and PSP.  The idea is simple: Max is a boy that has a marker that lets him draw objects to help get him through each puzzle filled level.  Each level contains various prize bubbles to collect as well as ink bubbles which allow the magic marker to be used to draw more complex objects before it runs out of ink.  Puzzles vary from simple platforming with missing locations to jump on, to buttons that trigger doors to open allowing Max to pass through to the end of the level.  Additionally, some levels contain Gobos, which are purple, blob-like enemies spawned from Mustacho, a giant, evil purple blob who has a vacuum that can suck up Max’s ink.

The game is divided into three stages, with roughly 20 sections to each stage.  The first stage is themed around Max’s home and neighborhood.  Natural grass, neighborhood buildings, rain clouds and mischievous Gobos make up the majority of obstacles for Max to overcome.  A pirate theme is the focus of the second stage with puzzles based around sections of a pirate ship, cannons, tropical volcanoes and of course Gobos.  A mechanized robotic theme completes the final sections in the third stage of the game, with moving platforms, laser beams and more Gobos.

Since the game started life on the Wii, controlling the magic marker with the PlayStation Move seems like a natural fit, however Press Play has designed the game to be played with just a standard DualShock 3 controller if a Move controller is not available.  I started playing the game using a DualShock 3 but wanted to see if I could draw objects more precisely with the Move.  Using the Move, I found precision to be greater when drawing objects, but there is an odd sort of disconnect in having two different controllers in either hand. It takes a while to get used to since button presses are done more with the left hand versus the right when using a traditional DualShock.

Each level is timed and completing a level under the set time earns a Star.  Collecting all of the white prize bubbles also earns a star.  Hidden in various locations throughout each level is a black prize bubble that, when found, also awards a star.  A trophy can be earned for completing each level with three stars. Unfortunately I found that finishing each level under the given time, while collecting all of the black and white bubbles proved to be a greater challenge than it would seem.  While I can say that I have enjoyed my time with Max, I can’t say that I would want to replay levels to try and three star each one.

That’s my only complaint with the game.  The mechanics are sound, the levels are short enough to not feel like a chore, but there isn’t enough variation even with three distinct themes.  Some levels don’t play on the same plane and that forces leaps of faith at times, hoping you don’t miss the small platform you need to land on after taking the plunge.  The game does allow for a pausing mechanic which switches the entire view into a child’s crayon drawing of Max and his surroundings.  While paused you can draw objects to help Max from falling to his doom, but in my mind, the game almost forces multiple retries on certain levels to first learn and then master the puzzle.

As the game progresses, the puzzles can be a little tricky but there is no real sense of learning and adding previous skills to the more advanced puzzles.  The same mechanics used to solve puzzles early on are the same in the end with no real progression in scope.  The one saving grace to the more difficult puzzles is the ability to turn on or off a hint system that will show a dashed line indicating where or what should be drawn to progress through a puzzle.

As I mentioned above, Press Play has slowly released Max & the Magic Marker out to multiple platforms, and now it’s on the PS3. The levels in the previous versions of the game are the same as what is found on the PS3, so if you have played the game before be aware that you are paying for the same game over again, a few minor additions aside.  The game can be fun in short doses and is certainly worth playing, but at the same time doesn’t have any real draw to keep you coming back for more once it’s over.

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Pros:
+ Great use of the Move
+ Short levels with quick reload (when necessary)
+ Fun music

Cons:
– Levels feel repetitive
– No story is told through the puzzles

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 via PSN
Publisher: PAN Vision
Developer: Press Play
Release Date: 11/1/2011
Genre: Platformer
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.