Max and the Magic Marker sets events in motion with the tale of a young boy named Max, who receives an anonymous gift of a marker pen in the post. He eagerly tries it out, and the first thing he draws, a purple monster, comes to life on the page, and starts wrecking all his other drawings. To stop him, Max draws himself onto the page. This is where you come in, by taking control of both creator and creation with Remote and Nunchuk in hand.
Gameplay is centered on the pointer, with the amount of ink in the on-screen pen determining how much you can draw. This can be increased by collecting containers of ink. What you draw is affected by the physics of that world, so balance is key, bringing to mind another WiiWare game in World of Goo. As such, this means you can try all sorts of shapes and combinations to get past each level's tricky situations. A seesaw to give yourself a height boost maybe? Or a platform to roll over those perilous-looking cogs? Magic Marker is a test for able-bodied minds, although that does bring about the old favourite bane of gamers worldwide, the 'trial and error' play. It's forgivable in light of the rest of the game, but not quite ignorable.
You are initially limited in what you can do within the world. Max can jump and push objects, but for anything else it is purely down to the pen, including offensive attacks and protection, since one enemy touch is instant death. Still, limitation breeds creativity, thus proving more incentive to draw your way out of situations, thankfully made easier with the freeze frame feature. A quick pinch of the A and B buttons together stops the screen (and turns the visuals into a highly stylistic children's drawing), giving you all the time you need to sketch out whatever you need to draw, or alternatively take back any ink you've used with a press of the B trigger. On the whole, control and gameplay is fluid and reliable in Magic Marker, and it's very rare you'll need to wrestle with either.
As aforementioned, Magic Marker portrays a more simplistic look for the frozen screen moments, and for the story cutscenes, but for the rest of the time you'll have clean, colourful visuals to interact with; not too far removed from another WiiWare belter, LostWinds. There are three main worlds, with five levels apiece, and each world plays to a different part of a child's imagination, from an urban homeland to the high seas. Levels are fairly long, and generously littered with checkpoints, though upon hitting one you have your pen ink taken away. This, despite infinite lives, ensures that the game is no cakewalk.
Magic Marker's music is of particular highlight here, with many distinct imaginings altering during your progress through a level, not only keeping things fresh, but also giving a cheeky nod for when a particularly tough section is near. The pen itself sounds as scribbly as you'd expect, and the way the music retro-ises when you freeze the screen to draw is yet another of many great touches you wouldn't expect.
15 levels may not sound much, especially for a platformer in danger of being a one-time experience without multiplayer for backup. However, the levels are fairly lengthy, and there are other objectives too. Scattered throughout you'll find bulb orbs, not unlike the ink orbs you have to grab for pen ammunition, and also hidden are smaller black orbs, usually about five to a level. This may start to sound like a collectathon, but since neither are necessary to actually finish the level and thus the game as a whole, there is no worry. Collecting them yields rewards you in the Extras section of the main menu, where you can see concept art, doodle around with the pointer in a relaxed environment, and other such oddities; an essential endeavour for any determined completionist. Max and the Magic Marker may not look like it offers much, but under the exterior beats the heart of a top-tier WiiWare game. It is not without its shortcomings, but a worthy purchase nonetheless.