Running a tried and tested formula is usually a safe bet provided you can add a little flare and excitement to things. After spending a little time with Mable & The Wood, I still can’t decide if it’s there or not. But I do know this – there’s a uniqueness about it all!
For those unaware, Mable & The Wood is one of the more recent games to hit the Steam Early Access program in the last few months, with the game scheduled to launch on Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch in the summer of 2019. And it must be said, this is probably one of the more interesting indie adventures you’ll see on the market.
The game can be played from two different perspectives – you can either save the world, or you can destroy it. Of course, what you choose depends on how you like to play, but should you wish to take the non-violent path, then you can even progress through this adventure without killing a single creature, including the bosses.
For me, months of Battlefield, GTA and Rainbow Six have turned me into nothing but a brutal killer and so my time with Mable & The Wood mostly saw me running through looking to destroy each and every one of the massive beasts I could find. Should you also be someone doing this, then you too would find yourself presented with the option to transform – or shapeshift if you like – into the creature that’s just been defeated, and with this in place you’ll be able to carry out your domination plans.
That’s essentially how my time with Mable & The Wood has worked so far, but it’s not how things begin. From the start of the game, players take on the role of Mable, a small, young child, with fiery hair and a sword too heavy to carry. The extra power Mable gets in this adventure comes from her conquers. You see, beasts are overrunning the kingdom and Mable is choosing her side.
Things are played out as a 2D side-scroller, with pixelated visuals making up the artistic design and Metroidvania-esque mechanics bringing a familiar feel to gameplay. At present, Mable & The Wood is a mostly linear affair with little opportunity to go beyond the trodden path. Progression is fairly simple with typical platforms and puzzles blocking progression points, and certain items needed to gain access to other areas. Mable & The Wood doesn’t currently have a massive essence of originality to it beyond being able to choose to play as a fearless killer or a kingdom saviour, but it does at least increase the interest in this early preview.
The locations on show are varied, with caves, mountains and a quaint little hamlet making up the surrounding areas. If the full experience keeps this up, there will plenty to praise with the visuals doing a fantastic job of providing detail despite being limited to pixelated graphics.
The biggest interest though is just how Mable is able to slay the beast of the land when her simple sword alone proves so heavy that it must be dragged behind her; it is here where the magical prowess of our young Mable come into play. You see the transformations I mentioned earlier are no coincidence, and with a fairy being the opening transformation that enables the player to reach higher ledges – dropping the sword in the process – enough progression will enable as many as 8 different beasts of the land to come under Mable’s command. How do you kill a beast with a sword you can’t carry? By lining up the sword with the enemy and returning to human form of course, ensuring your sword rips through the beast in the process. What an elegant way to dispatch an enemy don’t you think!
With that said, I do have to be honest here and admit that getting used to such a unique combat mechanic is something that is certainly going to take several more hours yet, but with the idea of standing out and doing something fresh, Mable & The Wood provides a promising start.
Away from the combat though and you have the puzzles, none of which so far feel all that challenging and along with the easy-yet-satisfying combat, there seems to be very little challenge in place. Of course we still have the full game to look forward to and I’m sure many will appreciate the occasional ‘easy’ adventure but it is nice to at least feel somewhat challenged – even briefly after setting out on a new gaming adventure. Mable & The Wood currently lacks that unique engagement.
At present, in Early Access, Mable & The Wood looks to be an interesting experience. It mixes the widely known with a hint of originality, and with a freedom of choice in how you choose to play also present, this may be a game to watch for on release.
When that launch does roll around, you can expect to see me completing my murderous adventures, so return then and you’ll find a full Xbox One review and thoughts on whether or not you need to be adding Mable & The Wood to your gaming collection! In the meantime, massive thanks go out to Graffiti Games for providing the Steam code.