Who do you get if you cross Penny Crayon with Chris Evans via Soccer Kid? Why an introduction that only works for British readers of course! Oh, and Max, the titular hero of Max and the Magic Marker from Danish developer Press Play.
A downloadable title that has been available on Wiiware, iOS and PC for a while now, M&TMM (as it will henceforth be known!) mixes platform antics with a puzzle structure as Max uses, you guessed it – his magic marker – to cross levels filled with hazards like spinning saws, erupting volcanoes, waterfalls and killer Jelly Beans. At least that’s what they look like.
The story, if you can call it that, is explored via a separate option from the main game menu, and tells of how one day the young Max receives a magic pen through his letterbox. As you do. The foolish young scamp then decides to draw a jelly bean with a mustache, who promptly comes to life and takes over his home town. Lucky Max didn’t doodle the first thing that would have come to our minds, otherwise giant phallus’s would be stalking suburbia right now. Still, the only thing to do is for Max to draw himself into the world in order to save the day.
You can choose your weapon of choice to assist you in this task, as the game is fully Move compatible. In fact there are three options; Dualshock alone, Dualshock (or Navigation Controller if you’re Rockefeller) with the Move controller, or Move controller alone. Although the first of these is fine as you use the right stick to control your marker pen, the game really needs the accuracy that the Move can provide as you sketch out bridges, ladders and umbrellas. Using the Move alone is just about playable, but tricky for the platforming sections as you use the X and O buttons to move left and right which can be tricky. Besides, why would you want to? Surely everyone who owns a Move also has a Dualshock?
The only issue I have with the Dualshock/Move option is that in order to freeze time for more precise inking, you need to press the Move button and trigger at the same time, and then repeat the action to unfreeze. You need to be careful to press the two buttons at the EXACT same time otherwise time will unfreeze but also the life saving doodle you have just scrawled will also disappear. Frustrating when you have just started an early level, but maddening when you are near the end of a fiendishly tricky later one and have to restart from scratch.
The story mode will remind you a lot of Angry Birds. Each mini-level usually only takes around 1-5 minutes to play through (as long as you don’t get stuck!) and after 20 or so levels you progress to another area. There are stars to be won on each level for collectables and time taken which obviously the obsessives amongst us will enjoy and which also aids the longevity of the game. That extra push is sorely needed however as the one big flaw in the game is how short it is. 56 levels are all that is on offer, and although it certainly gets trickier towards the end it still wont take you long to finish the fight against evil purple mustache jelly bean hoover man.
That said though you will still have a blast during your time with the game, and let’s not forget that this is a downloadable title and not a full-price retail release. The art style is wonderful, with simple but crisp graphics. It looks even better when you pause the action for more precise inking, as whatever is on the screen at the time reverts to a child’s drawing. If only our ginger hero and the blobs he encountered had more personality we could have seen something approaching Little Big Planet’s lovability. As it is, while pretty everything in the game world just comes over as a little bland. There are some great ideas at work here though, and when your brain finally ‘clicks’ into learning how you can draw anything you like and understanding how it will affect the environment and its physics then you really get into the game.
I enjoyed my time spent in Max’s company, despite his gingerness and love of drawing Jelly Beans with mustaches. The game certainly has that ‘one more level’ appeal, it’s just that unlike Angry Birds that point comes way too quickly. The franchise certainly has potential; a Vita version with you controlling the pen using the rear touch screen whilst moving Max with the stick would work wonderfully, and just imagine if new levels were released every couple of months or so digitally. Press Play could have a hit on their hands, just stay away from the Jelly Beans next time lads, eh? Still, have a 7/10 to be getting on with.