Max and the Magic Marker is a platforming/ puzzle game starring a boy whose drawing of a monster comes to life and starts making trouble in other pieces of artwork. Theoretically, Max could draw a ten-headed dragon to take care of the problem. Or, were he a little older, he could forget about the monster, draw several scantily-clad ladies, and throw a sexy party for everybody in the Land of Chalk Drawings. But Max is a responsible boy, so he immediately plunges into his drawing and chases after the monster, armed only with the marker that gave birth to the creature.
Max and the Magic Marker was initially released for the PC, Mac, and WiiWare before it made its mark (ha!) on iOS. The iPhone is a suitable place for Max’s adventure, which combines platforming action with the player’s artistic talents (or lack thereof). Can’t jump high enough to reach the top of a ledge? Draw yourself a nice set of stairs using your finger. Watch out, because the marker has a finite supply of ink, and refills aren’t always plentiful.
Max and the giant translucent sky marker.
The game’s levels are broken up into bite-sized experiences. Each level has a number of collectables, plus a landscape-related challenge that must be surmounted before you can reach the exit. You solve each problem by running, jumping, grabbing, and drawing. If you reach a gap, for instance, you can run and take a reeeeal long jump– or you can draw yourself a nice bridge and travel in style.
Other roadblocks will trip you up as well: Enemies prowl (try drawing something heavy above their heads), rainstorms can wash you out (draw a protective enclosure around yourself that you can also push along), and tires spin over bottomless pits (draw a board, jump on quick, and go along for a ride). If you reach the end of a level, you move on to the next. You can even earn stars for a job well done.
Max and the Magic Marker is fun to tinker with, but it’s not especially impressive when stacked up next to the likes of Drawn to Life or Super Scribblenauts. Your finite ink supply is part of the problem: It leaves you little room to work creatively. Even if you feel like going all-out and drawing the Brooklyn Bridge where a line across a pit will do just fine, more often than not, you’re going to have to settle for the line.
The blob collector.
There’s also the frustrating consequences that come with death. If you screw up, you start a level all over again. The levels in Max and the Magic Marker are pretty small, so at first, starting over seems of little consequence. But in a level that’s heavy with tasks and stuffed with objects that must be negotiated around, a slip-up at the very end can be teeth-gnashingly infuriating– especially since re-loading a level takes some time.
But Max and the Magic Marker still has heaps of charm, especially in its graphics. The simple blob-like enemies that populate many levels are adorable despite their simplicity, and the little buggers are smart. If you try to squash them with a drawn object, they’ll whip out a hard hat and cover their heads if you don’t draw the item high enough to gain the necessary momentum.
Max and the Magic Marker isn’t the first title of its kind, nor is it the best. Still, if you’re a fan of touch-screen artwork and creative puzzle solving, you’ll find it considerably more fun than taking a crayon to a copy of Hamburgler’s French Fry Adventure.