When I was a young kid, there was this great cartoon on TV called Simon in the Land of Chalk Drawings. It was black and white and involved a scraggly kinda nerdy kid with a magical piece of chalk and the theme song went:
“Well you know my name is Simon
And the things I draw come true
Well the pictures take me take all the way
Over the ladder with you.”
It always kind of fascinated me, even years later, this idea that you can just draw solutions to your reality – if there isn’t a door, just draw one in. If you can’t get up to the top of a cliff, just draw the stairs in front of you and then climb them to your destination.
Well now ideas and technology have delivered just such a thing in the form of a little indie game I can play on my PC, and the experience is pretty cool.
For what seems a natural progression for the physics-based genre, from developers Press Play comes a 2D puzzle platformer called Max and the Magic Marker, a game in which the player gets to control the protagonist, Max who uses magic marker to negotiate the landscape and obstacles that it introduces therein.
In the world of the play, with this magic marker, Max can make everything he draws have an effect on the world around him, whether that means drawing a bridge, or a ledge to protect yourself from loose rocks overhead, or set of stairs or one of many scribbles that will serve as heavy boulder objects that can serve a variety of useful functions. But there is a catch! There isn’t an unlimited amount of ink in this magic marker. You can always see how much is available, and Max can accumulate more as he goes along.
However, he also can have it snatched away by the monster that can appear at any checkpoint. So there’s a constant task of needing to keep the ink barrel filled in order to do the fun things and this becomes increasingly difficult as the game progresses, so a certain amount of ink management becomes necessary; initial puzzles are fairly easy and their solutions quite obvious, but they do get harder as you go along at the same time as the ink is supply is diminishing.
There are some tough situations, but they’re not insurmountable if the player perseveres. The tablet approach worked with the very successful indie Crayon Physics Deluxe – a clear progenitor to Max and His Magic Marker – but it doesn’t work so well with here because it is a platformer and you’ll wind up being concerned about how the keyboard moves and jumps sometimes in addition to how you can draw what needs to be drawn, so perhaps adding the platform element is not necessarily a clear evolutionary improvement. It isn’t the only physics based 2d platformer out there by any stretch, but it has become one of the most visible, and well produced.
Here is the trailer for WiiWare:
Being a platformer makes Max heavier on the action piece than on the puzzle piece and despite the added challenges the format introduces (as opposed to Crayon Physics or Gerbils Physics or Worms which are either contemplative or turn-based) here, the platforming function really does seem to work. Despite the fact that it isn’t exactly a long game, with only about fifteen levels to complete (easily accomplished within a day) the system performs well and the developers of Max and the Magic Marker deserve kudos for as much as it does accomplish.
The graphics are smooth and have a nice cartoony feel to them although they are somewhat inconsistent in style, the music by Analogik is cool, quirky and sometimes annoyingly buoyant after having looped a million times, though I leave this to matter of personal taste, and it a nice change from button mashing to draw the character’s way through across the screen.
Not quite sure whether this would be better or worse with the Wii nunchuk controller (some say it’s one of the best Wiiware game yet), but it is also available for PC and Mac.
At $20 the game feels a little over-priced, especially considering how short it is and its limited replayability (unlike Crayon Physics, a way through the platform is a way through the platform, it not nearly as open ended). Having said that, it is a polished, nice looking game that is worth the try, and if you have the scratch to spend, then by all means, it is worth a look.