Max & the Magic Marker bleeds burnt orange

and in Austin, that means it doesn’t get better

Spoiler alert! Max & the Magic Marker may not be the best game of the summer, but it will appeal to the widest audience of any of the games reviewed this week. You get to solve puzzles, jump over and under things and kill purple monsters. And draw things on your iPad as well. Best of all, especially for U Texas Longhorn fans, the most important color in the game, the color of your ink, is burnt orange. And if we suffer through another season like last year’s the fans can sketch their own plays for Max to run.


In recent columns I’ve discussed the game spectrum, from action to puzzle to strategy. Few games manage to successfully span all three, especially when adding a totally new innovation. Max & the Magic Marker for iPad does exactly that.

The game is admittedly light on the strategy side, but you do have to plan and manage your ink levels. Max & the Magic Marker excels at puzzles and action. The innovation, solving puzzles by drawing with a magic marker, actually appeared on PC-based games first, but the iPad’s touch screen makes the game easier to play than drawing with a mouse.

As with many PC games, EA adapted the game to the iPad by breaking the longer quests into discreet levels that take a minute or two to finish. Players have to have to complete each level in one adventure before moving on to the next.

What sets Max apart is the use of a magic marker to solve puzzles. As with many action games, you have to dodge falling objects and bad guys and leap over volcanoes and rivers. But most of the time your only way to get out of jams and find the goodies is to draw your solution with orange ink.

The key to most puzzles is to draw your way out of them. There isn’t one right answer as long as you get where you need, but clearly there are wrong ones. For instance, you can protect yourself from acid by surrounding yourself with a rolling wheel, or build and move through a series of structures.

You might need to draw bridges, rocks, stairs, surfboards and even fulcrums and hooks. You pry things loose with drawings, launch them, load cannons and even draw weapons to kill gobos (the evil purple jellybeans). But you can’t do it without ink, and you have to collect enough ink to draw the devices you need, and ink isn’t always easy to find.

You don’t just draw, of course. You sail on rafts, leap across floating boxes, surf across the water blasting from whale blowholes and shoot yourself out of cannons. You have to evade pirate and robot gobos.

You can shoot yourself out of cannons or draw cannonballs to shoot targets that will open gates.

Max & the Magic Marker follows the examples of Rooms and Casey’s Contraptions in that you can complete the levels without completing all of the objectives. In Max, you only need to make it to the portal that will transport you to the next level.

This is challenge enough. If you really want to push your skills to the limits, you can compete against the clock, collect hidden black ink or collect sugar pills (I guess that’s what they are). It’s extremely difficult to accomplish all three.

The puzzles are ingenious, and often you trigger effects at one level that you can’t see immediately. It’s also easy to miss hidden objects (or even portals to finish the realm). The graphics are fun, too.

You can also play the game with hints, suggesting possible sketches to get you through the more challenging levels, or you can brave the wilds with no help at all. EA also added an ingenious feature allowing you to reposition and resize controls. I found this really because, because trying to find the right button when hurrying through a level often resulted in total catastrophe for me.

You can customize the control buttons by resizing them and repositioning them to more convenient locations.

I’m serious when I say this game will have a much wider appeal than the others I reviewed this week. It’s no less demanding, but it’s far less cerebral and game play is far closer to the old Donkey Kong and Sonic the Hedgehog. Your kids will love it, and when they’re out doing things with friends that you don’t want to think about, you’ll get a kick out of playing, too.

Jenny Manytoes rates Max & the Magic Marker for iPad

Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over Max. She especially likes the purple gobos. They remind her of the grapes she likes to knock off the counter and bat around the floor until Carol’s too grossed out to even pick them up and clean them. Max is a best buy even among the best buys.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat

  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.
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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 5 Stars + Best Buy, Arcade Games, Entertainment, Games, Puzzle Games, Strategy Games and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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