Occupied with a pad of paper and a stack of crayons, Max is minding his own business, making a colourful mess as only a child can. That is, until an unexpected letter drops onto the door mat addressed to him. Curious, Max tears open the envelope to find a brand new marker pen, and it doesn’t take him long to get creative with this new toy. He doodles a monster but isn’t prepared for it to come to life on the page, scarpering into his other drawings to cause mayhem and misery. Determined to protect his morning’s work, Max swiftly scrawls a self-portrait and sends himself into the world of ink to stop the bothersome blot.
Max and the Magic Marker: Gold Edition melds platforming and painting into an enjoyable experience. As you leap around the environments you’ll also have to solve puzzles with the mystical drawing implement, tracing in lines to traverse gaps, or creating weights to drop down onto enemies. The creepy crayon transforms what could have been a fairly standard platformer into a jumpathon that forces you to keep your brain in gear and your etching arm nimble.
The game takes place over three distinct worlds, each inspired by children’s drawings: a boxy, picturesque town, a pirate-infested tropical paradise and a dangerous robot factory. As you progress through the 58 stages, the inputs required increase in complexity. While initially you only need to sketch bridges, puzzles gradually become more varied; you’re soon creating makeshift surfboards and hot air balloons to make it to the next section. Thanks to a friendly style and well-balanced learning curve, these changes rarely cause confusion.
Press Play has provided enough control schemes to please everybody in Max and the Magic Marker. There's support of the standard PlayStation 3 pad used solus, the right analogue stick taking over movement of the marker, but of course it's the Move controls that we're more interested in here. You can play with a DualShock 3 or a Navigation controller in one hand to direct Max's walking while scribbling directly with Move's pointing capabilities when the Move button is held. The X and Triangle face buttons on Move are responsible for jumping and gripping onto shiftable objects respectively, and any ink can be recalled to the pen by either pointing at the drawing you want to erase and tapping T, or by holding T and shaking the controller to delete every mark. However, it's the Move controller used individually that appeals most. Using the tiny X and O buttons to move left and right doesn’t sound comfortable, but somehow it works very well. In this mode jumping is mapped to T, while Square erases instead.
You can rest assured if you’re more used to wielding a sword than a pen — though drawing and platforming can be accomplished simultaneously, the action can be halted at any time to allow you to regain your bearings. Doing so instantly changes the visuals completely, converting what was previously clean into charming child-like scraggly depictions of the world; Max’s actual drawings, whereas regular play represents what's unfolding in his imagination. The effect is fantastic, and there’s fun to be had in simply running around altering the art style.
When this mode is activated nothing moves but the marker pen, giving you as much time as you like to draw, erase and adjust whatever ink monstrosity needs to be created to pass the next obstacle. This definitely makes Max and the Magic Marker an easier game, but it’s a design choice that fends off frustration in the more challenging moments. If you’re still having trouble, hints can be switched on: small orange outlines that appear within the environments, showing exactly what you need to draw to progress.
Getting to each stage’s torn paper exit is only half the challenge, though, as Press Play has also included three goals to aim for in each level. There are target times to beat, yellow orbs to collect and hidden black orbs to discover. Fulfilling these extra objections nets you stars, up to three per stage; you’ve not really completed Max and the Magic Marker until you’ve bested these accomplishments, too.
Max and the Magic Marker: Gold Edition is a fine example of how pointing technology can add something worthwhile and extra to a platformer. There’s plenty of game to get your head around, and it’s all delivered with wonderful presentation — including enough colour to fill a huge box of Crayola — and infectious music that stays in your mind for hours.