Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Max & the Magic Marker (WiiWare)

My first review is finished!  I started this process, about a week and a half ago.  
I've tried to write it with a good bit of information about the game, but few "spoilers".
I included the number of levels/worlds, and even a brief description of them in the review;
I have the text for that section blacked out, so as not to ruin it, 
if you don't want to know about the levels/worlds, before you play them.  
If you want to see the descriptions, simply "highlight" the area and the text will be visible.
There is a picture included, as long as you don't click the picture, it should be small enough 
for you to not read anything.

The Blend (brief desciption and details)
Max & the Magic Marker is a 2-D "Platform, Puzzle" game, developed by Press Play.
I purchased Max & the Magic Marker from the Wii's Shop Channel, on March 8, 2010, for 1000 Wii Points.
My total play-time when I first finished the game was nearly 7 hours, with "70% Progress".
Currently, my total reported play-time is 20 hours 45 minutes, with "96% Progress".

The Brew (game-play, controls, levels, graphics, etc.)
You play as a young kid, named Max, and the only weapon you have in the levels is his Magic Marker.
You run and jump your way through levels, but without proper use of the Magic Marker, you won't get far!
You will use the Magic Marker to draw items such as: ramps, steps, bridges, seesaw contraptions(my favorite), and make levers to activate switches, all helping Max advance through the levels.
The Wii Remote and Nunchuk are both used to play the game.

Controls! Get ready to draw(with) your weapon!

The Magic Marker is setup as the Wii Remote's pointer and you activate the drawing function by pressing the A button.  Drawing in the game with the Wii Remote functions pretty well, for the most part.
Drawing objects with the Wii Remote can require a steady hand though, and I found the more I practiced drawing, the better I became at it.
The "Freeze/Unfreeze" control, by pressing A and B at the same time, can be a great help when you fall off a ledge.  Many times I would fall off a ledge, then pause the game, and end up building platforms under Max's feet;  I would then try to jump off the platforms, back up to safety.
Eventually, I took the time to see how high I could go in levels, by drawing platforms under my feet in mid-air, and jumping off of them repeatedly, higher and higher.

Can you get here?

If you draw steps, bridges, or any ink object for that matter, you can erase the object and you get all the ink back that you used.
If I had one problem with the controls, it would be one of the erase functions.  Holding B and shaking the Wii Remote causes all ink objects drawn to be erased and the ink returned to the Magic Marker.  Sometimes, I thought the shaking of the Wii Remote took more effort than it should.  The function is not broken, but perhaps needs a little ironing in a future sequel(sequel, please Press Play!).
Overall though, I thought the controls were implemented well in the game.

The game has five levels per world, with a total of three worlds; fifteen levels in all.
  • World 1: Sweet Home has you play through Max's neighborhood.  The world contains pretty straightforward platforming elements, with the first few levels being nice introductory levels to the game's controls.
  • World 2: Shiver Me Timbers is a pirate world.  Playing through this world's levels is enjoyable and I think the level designs were well done for the pirate theme;  incorporating pirate boats, water, and cannons!
  • World 3: Robot Factory is, as the name implies, a robot factory world!  This world introduces the most challenging puzzles in the entire game, and there is a great sense of accomplishment when you finally figure out some of the puzzles.
As you progress through each level, you will gather ink orbs, which fill Max's Magic Marker, allowing you to draw your way through the levels.
Each level contains many checkpoints, and every time Max reaches a new checkpoint, the Monster will suck away all the ink you have gathered, with his vacuum.
So, throughout each level, there is a continuous gather/lose element when it comes to the ink supply.

Awesome orange ink!

The physics engine used in the game is pretty impressive, as objects drawn in the game have a weight to them.
The less ink you use, the lighter the object.  The more ink you use, the heavier the object.
This picture below, explains the weight of objects in the game nicely:
An open circle is light, a circle filled with ink is heavy.

I think the game's graphics are really clean and crisp, and the music fits the level designs well.
The music is on a short loop, so if you are playing on a level for a while, you will probably notice the music repeat.
Press Play took time adding nice sound effects into the game.  One example of this is when Max falls a distance through the air, there's a distinct whistling sound as he falls.  Another example is when you drop an ink object or raft into water, it will make a splashing sound effect.

The levels in Max and the Magic Marker have a variety of hazards that Max must avoid, to stay alive.
Max does not have a health bar.
One touch by a variety of hazards such as acid rain or a purple Gobo, causes Max to respawn at the last checkpoint.
Fortunately, Max has infinite lives, and I think it makes playing the game more enjoyable, as you can really experiment with the drawing mechanics and exploring the levels, without worrying about how many more lives you have.

Though each level has many checkpoints, the levels can't be continued from a checkpoint within them; so, make sure to finish a level before leaving it if you are collecting items.
The game saves automatically after each level, so you do not have to worry with remembering to save the game.
While the main objective in each level is to reach a "portal" at the end, bringing Max to the next level; the main objective of the game is for Max to get rid of the Monster he created, using the Magic Marker.

Purple Gobo...do you see evil in its eye?

Other than the main Monster, purple Gobos are the only "living" enemies in the levels.  The purple Gobos are little purple blobs, with arms, that move around by hopping.
There are several ways to rid the levels of purple Gobos.  You can use the Magic Marker to drop ink on them, causing them to disappear;  or, you can draw an ink object and use it to push the enemy Gobos off ledges.  You can also just jump over Gobos, though the jump does need to be timed well.
Enemy Gobos can push ink objects in their path, so when drawing steps or bridges you should be careful.
Several times in the game, I drew ink ladders to ledges above me.  As I would start climbing the ink ladder, an enemey Gobo would come hopping along, and run right into the edge of my ink ladder, pushing it backwards, causing it(and me) to fall backwards!

The Condiments (things that make the game a little bit sweeter)
If you want to play straight through the game, doing so will probably take you about 3-4 hours.  I would say this is like drinking coffee black, which is how I drink mine.
When it comes to my games though, I like to get many hours of game-play out of them, and Max and the Magic Marker has provided me many hours.

Nearly all the levels in Max & the Magic Marker contain "Hidden" and "Thought" orbs.
They are scattered around each level, and really add some great replay value to the game.

"Thought" orbs are usually pretty easy to gather for the most part, by drawing simple bridges/ramps between platforms.
I think they help you to explore the levels, by the way they are spread around.
If you reach a checkpoint, then you gather five "thought" orbs, but die before reaching a new checkpoint; you will have to gather those five "thought" orbs again, if you are trying to complete a level with all of them.

The "Hidden" orbs will usually require you to think creatively, to reach them using the Magic Marker.
If you are trying to get all the "hidden" orbs, it is possible to grab a "hidden" orb and die in the process of getting it; and when you respawn you will still have the "hidden" orb.  I used this method, dying to gain a "hidden" orb, multiple times for some that were in hard to reach locations.

When you finish a level, you are given a score card of sorts, that shows you how many orbs you collected and how long it took you to complete the level.

The picture above shows I completed the level with 50/50 "Thought" orbs and 4/4 "Hidden" orbs, but I did not finish within the timed goal of 1:50.
I do not think it is possible, in any level, to collect the Thought and Hidden orbs and complete the level within its timed goal.  You can replay levels though and run through them as quickly as possible for the timed goal; then come back to collect the orbs, or vice-versa.  The game will remember that you have collected all the orbs, and it will also know when you have completed the timed goals on each level as well, so they are goals that can be completed separately.

In many levels, I found it is possible to go all the way back to the beginning of the stage, with ink gathered after crossing the last checkpoint.  This can be useful if you reach the end of a level, and find you are missing a few "thought" or "hidden" orbs, but you don't want to restart the level.

Extra modes for extra play-time? Maybe, maybe not.

Collecting a certain number of "thought" and "hidden" orbs will unlock "extras" in the game.  If you complete five levels with speed runs, you will unlock a mode that shows Max likes his caffeine via a coffee drink!
My main problem with the extras, like my wife's(read below), is that they can't be used to help you gather orbs or complete speed runs, that are remaining in the levels.  If you use any of the "extras", the game knows it, and labels you a "cheater".

I cheat by using legitimate means!?

Because the game will not allow you to keep "achievements" when using the "extra" modes, the extra modes don't help you accomplish anything like they were seemingly designed to do.

The Aftertaste (final thoughts)
The day I started playing Max & the Magic Marker, Mrs. CoffeewithGames(my wife), watched me play the game.  She sat on the couch next to me, and would watch me think about different puzzles, and offer advice.  My mom was visiting us from out of town, and she even started offering advice for how to solve puzzles in the game.
My wife started her own game the very same day I did.  Not only did she play the game, but she beat it before I did!  Her current play-time and percentage complete is:
71% Progress - 11 Hours 01 minute.
My wife said of Max & the Magic Marker, "It had good problem solving puzzles, and made good use of the players creativity.  It challenged me to make creative solutions."
Two things she did not like about the game:
1) The jump button being on the Nunchuk
2) The "extras" that you unlock, can't be used to help you collect remaining orbs or to complete remaining speed runs in the levels.

I have had the game freeze on me twice.  I am not sure if it was the game's fault, or just my system.  The reason I am not sure, is because the first day that Max & the Magic Marker froze, another WiiWare game I played also froze the same day. Max and the Magic Marker froze once again last week, but again, I do not know if it was the game or my system.  After I did a system reset(power off/on), the game played fine and none of the save data was corrupted.

If you visit the website, MaxandtheMagicMarker.com, you may see a section that says, "Claim Your Prize".
Though I haven't gained 100% of the items in the game, I contacted Press Play about it.
I asked, "If you complete the game with 100% items/speed runs, is that when you get a code of some sort to "Claim Your Prize", on the site?"
The reply I received was, "In the European Wii game and in the PC/Mac version you get a download code for the mixed soundtrack by completing all levels - this was unfortunately not possible in the US version, so sadly there is no prizes in that version."

Even with my "bitter" issues with the game, I still highly recommend Max & the Magic Marker to anybody looking for a fun platforming puzzle game.  I said to myself while playing the game, "I can't believe this game wasn't developed by Nintendo!"
The fact that my wife also played and enjoyed the game was an added bonus.
I believe that Max can have a nice place in your Wii collection, right next to Mario.
At only $10, Max & the Magic Marker is a great buy.
Put on a pot of coffee, download the game, and see how far your drawing skills will take you!

For the final score...

If you have played Max & the Magic Marker, what do you think of it?  If you have not played it, and you have any questions about it, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at CoffeewithGames@gmail.com.  Also, if you do/don't like the format, or have advice, let me know.

Thank you so much for reading!  I hope you enjoyed it and learned something about a game, that perhaps you didn't know much about!

To play the PC demo of the game:


  1. I played the demo on their site, but can imaging using the Wiimote works pretty well since from the demo it seems you didn't have to be too exact with your shapes. I like the concept. I think a lot of people don't realize that Wiiware has quite a few gems buried in the Wiishop channel. Nintendo really needs to redesign that.

    I might pick this one up down the road, I just got CaveStory and Bit.Trip.Runner just came out so I'm having a hard time deciding what to play/buy first.

    Couple of format questions. Your post column seems a little thin, so your review takes a lot of posting. Also I noticed you have video at the end. Ever thought of doing video reviews?

  2. Srry I mean "Your post column seems a little thin, so your review takes a lot of scrolling"

  3. This games works very well as a two-player co-op with one player on the nunchuk and one using the remote. I played the game like this with my granddaughter and we had a great time.
    By the way, I like that the column is "thin", as the previous poster says, because it fits nicely in the Wii browser.

  4. @The Butcher:
    "I think a lot of people don't realize that Wiiware has quite a few gems buried in the Wiishop channel. Nintendo really needs to redesign that."
    I agree, if a person buys a Wii, Nintendo needs to start including a DVD or Wii disc of some sort, that shows them they can download games.

    I really think several of the WiiWare games are as good as, if not better than $50 retail games.

    On the formatting, I have changed the blog format before, it was back in January, to its current format. I had to go back and rearrange certain posts, because it caused items to move around in them.

    "Ever thought of doing video reviews?"
    I have actually, especially when I was putting this review together. I think certain games, especially like Max & the Magic Marker are better explained visually than with words. So, perhaps in the future I'll attempt a video review for a game.

    Interesting how you played it with your granddaughter! I probably would never have thought of that.
    Did you and your granddaughter complete the game? Or, just a few levels of it?

    Thank you both very much for the comments!


Keep the comments clean. Rated "E" for Everyone. :)


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