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Max & the Magic Marker - DS Review

Game Info
Max & the Magic Marker

DS | Easy Interactive / Most Wanted Entertainment | 1 Player | Out Now
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Review
5th January 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

In 2010, we saw multiple Phoenix Wright titles get ported to WiiWare with some success, but it looks like it's the direct opposite with Max & the Magic Marker. It's great to see a solid downloadable title like this aiming for a wider market much in the same way that Groovin' Blocks did. Max & the Magic Marker has appeared on a bunch of different platforms as it is, but interestingly, the developers never made the move to Nintendo's handheld world until now. But after having played this version of what is one of my favourite WiiWare titles, I have to question just how much Press Play was really involved in bringing this over. Because even though the original title had some minor technical flaws, I can't see the team fully standing by a port that has problems at every corner.

    The game starts off by introducing you to Max through a series of pictures that fade in and out like a slideshow, but with no music to be heard in the background. Considering my experience with the original game, this introductory segment felt a bit awkward in the way it was presented. But in a way, it made me expect less in my expectations and be prepared for the, shall we say, embarrassment that was to follow.

    For anyone who is unfamiliar with how this game works (how did you miss it?), Max & the Magic Marker is a puzzle-platformer that tasks players with using a marker to help the main character (that's Max) get to the end of each stage. In each stage, you'll discover coloured bubbles that will fill up the marker with usable ink for creating lines and simple shapes. Aside from that, you'll also find standard pick-ups that go towards your overall completion across the fifteen-stage journey.

    The screen layout is pretty straight-forward, with the top screen being used to track pertinent information like the number of collectibles you've gathered, as well as the amount of time you've been taking trying to clear the given level. This is also where you'll find a visual of the marker and the ink inside. It's definitely not the same as having the marker appear as your cursor, but given what they were working with, what do you expect?

    
The Touch Screen is where you'll find a 2D model of Max that you can control with the D-Pad and the A button as you draw lines with your stylus. You can only have four drawings existing on the playing field at a time, with the marker ink limiting the length of lines drawn. To remove drawings from the environment, you hold the X Button while also tapping on the lines you'd like to get rid of. Needless to say, this feels awkward and not very intuitive. Alternatively, by holding Up on the D-Pad and the X Button at the same time, you can remove all markings at once. So at least there's that. 

    Pressing the B Button will cause everything to stop as Max enters Sketch Mode. This makes it easier for the player to get past moving obstacles and enemies without feeling as much pressure to act decisively. When this mode is active, the entire screen takes on an orange sunset colour, with its own variation of the stage music beginning again from the start each time you return.

    The puzzles in Max & the Magic Marker are ordinarily seen as fun moments in the level progression where you'll get to help Max in more creative ways. Like, for example, creating a structure that can hold balloons so Max can ascend to a floating portal in the sky. There are many other examples where the game's level design makes it easy for players to feel connected and involved. But it's with good reason that I chose the word "ordinarily" as this once-great feeling is sadly non-existent in the DS version. To put it bluntly, this is a weak attempt at a port, and it was upsetting for me to see how a game I loved got such ill treatment as it was brought to the DS. If there's one thing I've come to appreciate more now than before, it's how much the colourful and wholly welcoming atmosphere of the original played a key part in the experience being so positive for the player.

    
The entire release adheres to low standards, where the environments, enemy character models and even Max himself appear in a resolution that seems insulting in this day and age. The camera doesn't always work well either, as there were times when it didn't adapt to Max's positions and, therefore, it was annoying that I was unable to view the game space from the most workable perspective at all times. To add insult to injury, the game runs below the expected 30 FPS mark, with no sort of fluidity at all. But given what players will experience in nearly all other areas, this won't be much of a shocker.

    The developers did try to replicate the visuals of the higher-quality versions, but when you witness the weak animations of things like water traps, your willingness to forgive goes completely out the window. Added onto everything else, transitions between music tracks are not progressive and feel like abrupt changes. In other places, the audio is downright choppy, to the point that the feelings the original songs conveyed are nearly lost.

    What other issues are there to speak of? Well, take for example how Max "interacts" with enemies. If you get within one or two steps of a Glob, even though you haven't even made direct contact with it, you'll get sent back to the checkpoint. And again going back to the animations, there's also a lack of cohesion in the way they've been presented. When Max arrives at the entrance of a level or respawns at a checkpoint, the drawing animation that takes place lasts five seconds on the timer, meanwhile in the WiiWare version, these were quick and painless. There's also a one-second delay between presses of the A Button and when Max actually performs a jump, meaning that things don't feel immediate as they should. Ultimately, all this does is contribute to a bumpy experience that feels more annoying and frustrating than anything else.

    Another issue that wasn't present in the original but is now present in the DS port has to do with the physics. Boxes and movable platforms won't budge right away, and sometimes I found the only way to get them to move at all was to have Max hang from the edges. This happens even when trying to create a ball to roll around in and it just doesn't look good at all. There are multiple other cases as well where the game feels quite glitchy, like when Max randomly hangs onto the middle of lines you've drawn. And with occasions such as these popping up on a frequent basis, it's very easy to point out how much this port is lacking in this area. 

    There's nothing fun about a game that doesn't work the way it should, where the technical infirmities deter players from pressing forward and exploring a game that is well-designed in its original form. It wasn't long before I decided I couldn't put up with the inadequacies any longer, and I'm certain a similar case would occur with anyone who actually gives this game a go. But see, here's what worries me the most about this game. If someone is unaware of the WiiWare service and picks this up, their viewpoint on the premise and gameplay will be tainted by the problems existing in this port. And should this deter someone from completely exploring this game on another platform, I would be legitimately upset.

    This version contains the same extras featured in the original, but with the problems of this release leaving you with a bad taste in your mouth, there's a real lack of motivation to get through the game, let alone going after every last item and time medal. I mean, even just with the unlockable Playground area, instead of seeming inviting for a person to just go in and experiment, the dull look of it is a complete turn-off. But really, this is congruent with the game in its entirety.

    Easy Interactive has not done a good job of things at all. Max & the Magic Marker for the DS is an unsatisfactory port of a game that deserves much better. I couldn't actually bring myself to get through the entire game because of how much the poor execution bothered me. At the end of the day, the many problems that exist here just seem disrespectful to the original game that Press Play worked hard to created, and that leaves me with a negative view towards those responsible for such a poor outcome.


11/30 - Very Poor

Gameplay 5/10 - Technical issues overshadow the creativity in the drawing mechanic, controls aren't the most ideal, using the stylus feels different
Presentation 3/10 - Issues abound with the framerate and animations, camera can be problematic, music has lost the effect it once had, low-res graphics
Enjoyment 1/5 - All the fun is nearly stripped away because of serious flaws, frustrating feedback, puzzles aren't the same, far from a smooth experience
Extra Content 2/5 - 15 levels, contains the same extras featured in the original but there's hardly any motivation to get through the game even once

Equivalent to a score of 37% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System


Review by KnucklesSonic8



Max & the Magic Marker
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