Mable and The Wood
Developed by: Triple Vision Games
Published by: Graffiti Games
Category: Action, Arcade, Platform
Release Date: 10/10/19
Metroidvania, a genre of game that more recently has been, dare I say it overused and lacking in originality. A style that fuses the premise of a 2D side scroller, with looting, shooting and exploration.
Allow me to introduce you to Mable and The Wood, a game born in Sheffield, to developer Triple Vision Games and led by Andrew Stewart with a team of collaborators around the world. The road to market was a winding one for Andrew, with development out of his own home, and a kickstarter campaign to make the game a reality back in 2016.
We begin our story as Mable, a young girl recently resurrected by a strange cult, who speak of a prophecy. They share a vision that this young girl will hunt the dangerous beasts of the world, assume their powers and repair this dying planet. Our mission is to explore if this prophecy is true and this twist on the typical genre is a real joy. As you finish off the first Boss fight early on, a giant spiders dying gift to you are its powers, so before you know it Mable is swinging pillar to pillar, platform to platform like Peter Parker.
The game follows this path throughout, with multiple new transformations and powers to adopt as the game progresses, each one unique in helping the player to traverse their way through each new area. Think shuffling platforms, stone pillars and curtains of thorns.
The game has a cute, yet simple 16 bit pixel art design style, with Mable’s giant sword, and wavy ginger locks flowing in the breeze. Although this game is pretty, it does lack some fidelity and complexity in design, and there’s a lot of repetition around background elements and level artefacts that doesn’t exactly create excitement and anticipation for what’s next.
With no voice acting in game, the dialog is text based, and although simple in construct there are some subtle moments of humour and sass throughout that clearly show this was created by a British developer. Audio is instead just a simple fantasy styled melodic tune, that has orchestral melodies, with quickened pace and percussion led moments. Its perfectly fine, and matches the mystical stylisation well.
Mable and The Wood has a lot of heart, and affords the player choices around how to move forward and progress through the game, you can even do so without killing anyone. Its underlying messages of hope and choice are plain to see, and I do enjoy its ability to convey a narrative further reaching than you might have expected. The quirks of the game, are also a lot of fun, with Mable dragging her giant sword throughout the game, despite her diminutive size meaning she is unable to swing it, or use it at all. This does mean that, should you decide to take your adversaries on in battle, you instead must transform into one of your alternate forms, such as a fairy, and whilst avoiding damage attempt to find the right trajectory to recall the sword and have it return to you like Thors hammer slicing through the air (and whatever is in its path).
There were unfortunately a few buggy moments in game, that resulted in freezes that required a reset, but these were few and far between and will hopefully be patched in time. Controls wise, it was a little awkward after a few hours play, with such active use of the shoulder buttons, I was left with cramp and the dreaded ‘Switch Claw’ so would encourage players to take regular breaks throughout their play.
In addition to the controls the other area that lets Mable down somewhat is the Map system, which is rarely accessible and when it is, doesn’t pinpoint Mable’s location, making it extremely easy to get lost, as well as moments of clunkiness that lack some polish along the way.
These are small faults really, and for those looking for a Metroidvania with an interesting approach to combat that steps away from Hack and Slash, as well as a clever twist at the end, you’re really going to enjoy Mable and The Wood.
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*The Switch Effect was provided a code for this game*