Game Reviews

Max and the Magic Marker

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Max and the Magic Marker

All too often, platform titles on smartphones can feel like an accommodation. Even those that aren't ports or classic rehashes – Sonic The Hedgehog, I'm looking squarely at you – tend to run with the virtual buttons and D-pad setup.

It's a perfectly adequate approach, of course, but it's hard not to feel that few have really taken advantage of the opportunities a touchscreen serves up.

It's ironic, then, that the one game that feels like it's fully versed with the ways of these swish, shiny devices is actually something of a port itself, Max and the Magic Marker having had an original run both on WiiWare and PC at the start of the year.

Nevertheless, in Max's Windows Phone world, the finger is king.

Familiar meets fresh

This isn't a complete revolution, however. On-screen buttons naturally make an appearance here, with moving Max around his etchy-sketchy world handled via two directional buttons on the left of the screen and a pad that causes him to jump on the right.

Much of play revolves around such actions - the typical challenges of jumping between platforms and avoiding baddies that patrol each stage are as familiar as they sound. It's both navigating these levels and disposing of said foes that brings out Max's secret weapon – his marker.

Max's marker enables you to draw your way to victory, whether you're sketching out a simple bridge across a cavern or dropping a slab of ink on your enemies from a great height to squash them to smithereens.

Drawing glory

All such sketches are simple enough to implement, requiring nothing more than a swipe of your finger, and many of the early puzzles are entirely obvious – the game often sketches out the drawings likely to be the most effective.

Nonetheless, there's an undeniable satisfaction that comes from this input, even it's not quite in the same league as LittleBigPlanet in terms of creativity.

The touchscreen mechanic is used more and more effectively as the levels progress. Typical platform stages are brought alive by the constant need to draw and draw again, and entire contraptions have to be sketched from scratch in order to progress.

Your drawings are often kept in check, however, by the amount of ink at your disposal.

Delivered via orange orbs, Max and the Magic Marker only delivers enough ink to get you through each section. The game's main adversary – a monster of Max's own creation that magically comes to life – swipes your ink at every save post.

Ink trick

As such, freedom in Max and the Magic Marker is something of an illusion. While you can choose to draw anything you like (while the game is paused, if you so choose), there's no guarantee any structure you come up with will actually do the job.

It's often the most obvious drawing – the one the developer presumably had in mind – that's fit for purpose, making you feel like something of a puppet.

Nonetheless, while Press Play might weild a little too much control over proceedings at times, it's fair to say the developer knows what it's doing.

As play progresses, an increasing array of creative solutions is happened upon – one early highlight involves drawing a ball that drops from the sky to catapult you to platforms above.

Such sparks of ingenuity are enough to make Max and the Magic Marker one of Windows Phone 7's early highlights, though any follow up might like to give players a slightly freer hand when it comes to sketching their way to success.

Max and the Magic Marker

Truly at home on touchscreen, Max and the Magic Marker brings its sketch-savvy to Windows Phone 7 in spades, though the solutions can feel a touch obvious at times
Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.