Already released for computers and coming to WiiWare this Monday, Max & The Magic Marker gives a good impression. Especially if you play it on a screen that's 137-inches diagonal.
For those of you who don't have 137-inch screens, just trust me about this, ok? The people from Press Play, the Danish development studio behind the game, had access to one last Friday and let me play their game on it.
Max & The Magic Marker is a side-scrolling platform game starring a hero who can run and jump and hope that you will aid his journey by drawing things into his world. Two Press Play developers talked me through a couple of levels in Max's fifteen-level game. Using a Wii nunhuck, I made Max run and jump and collect blobs or orange marker ink. With the remote I was able to use that orange marker to draw structures into the world. The drawings follow rudimentary laws of physics, falling, tilting and leaning as they drop into place, creating ramps, shelter, seesaw counter-weights or enemy-killing bricks. Ink is finite but can be sucked back into the marker when needed. The ink reserve resets at every checkpoint, meaning you can't horde.
One of the nicest touches is that more complex things can be drawn into existence if you overlap your lines. For example, a straight line might fall and create a steep ramp. Drawing a few short lines across it will add rigid ladder-like rungs which Max can climb up. The drawing gameplay is similar to what was presented in last year's Drawn To Life sequels, but the developers maintain that they were unaware of that when they started this project almost two years ago.
I was impressed with the clever level design which required increasingly inspired line placement. But I was more wowed by the polish. The graphics are the best kind of cheerful, colorful renderings that make a platformer fun to play through even when the going gets heard. Sound effects are synced to the music of the game, somehow making even Max's footsteps match the soundtrack's beat. When the game is put into a freeze mode to allow more careful drawing, the art style you see in these screenshots changes into a crayon-style rendering of the graphics on-screen.
I got the impression that Max & The Magic Marker will be a brief game. It has hidden items that can be collected to unlock special replay features and enhanced modes (altered physics, for example). The main appeal of this game, though, looks to be the polish of a tight, carefully designed experience. The levels I played were smartly made.
Fun trivia note: Press Play is located on the fourth floor of a building in Copenhagen. On the floor above are the makers of Limbo, another artfully designed and well-crafted side-scroller that it was a joy to play and preview this week. There's something good about that building, it seems to me.