Max and the Magic Marker review
The only way I’ve ever got anything magical to happen with a permanent marker is by sticking it up my nostrils while listening to Jimi Hendrix. Even then I just felt a bit woozy.
But with Max it’s different. With his special orange pen you can scrawl all over the strange worlds he visits on the trail of the evil Mustachio, who he accidentally created with the aforementioned mystical pen. With it you can draw ramps, see-saws, weights and squiggles to drop on enemies. What? Yes, you can draw a giant spam javelin and watch as it plummets towards innocent little Max, but it’s not going to do anything except prove that all those things your mum said about your maturity levels are true.
You collect ink for your pen as Max jumps and runs his way through the world, but at each checkpoint Mustachio will suck it all away like a toddler that just discovered earthworms. It stops things getting too easy: you can’t just draw one long bridge across the level like the Isambard Kingdom Brunel of laziness. Instead you need to build little platforms to get thrown upwards by whale blowholes, sketch protection against worrying deadly rain, and draw rafts that can float on cardboard boxes.
Early on you might be able to get away with just drawing staircases over and over again, but the further you go the scarcer ink gets, and the more creative you’ll need to be. Beware some of Max’s moves though: he’s a bit of a brat in the air, slow to respond to your desperate key taps as he plummets into the sea. It’s a tiny niggle, at least until you’re watching him glug his way back a whole checkpoint. On the subject of controls, it’s worth mentioning this perky platformer is also on Wii, but suffers nary a scratch in the move from white plastic remote to mouse and keyboard.
One of the things that makes it so playable is that there’s variation aplenty, and fun little minigames for extra collectables. Play side scroller Whack-A-Mole by dropping scribbles on the heads of gophers to make a vending machine work, or fire cannons at targets hung from the top of a pirate ship. Or be a total spoilsport, skip those bits entirely and charge to the end of the level like the soulless automaton you are. Another factor in the game’s favour is that it all looks cuter than a kitten in a top and tails, especially when you hit the spacebar. That pauses time by turning the scene into a drawing, handy if you’re leaping into the unknown or trying to draw an umbrella over Max while a volcano is spewing rocks.
At £12.99 the 15 levels provided might seem a tad pricey, but it’s worth a rummage in the piggy bank if you fancy a bit of a chin-stroking ponder with your platforming. Alert the industry: stationery is the new grapple hooks.
An inventive and enjoyable puzzle platformer. It might not be a Picasso, but it's still a work of art.