Mable and the Wood
Writer: Andres Stewart
Developer: Triplevision Games
Publisher: Graffiti Games
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, Switch
A review by Brooke Ali, played on Windows
Mable and the Wood (2019) is about a small girl named Mable who has been resurrected by a strange cult to save their dying world. She is the subject of a prophecy, but what do prophecies know, anyway? The cult wants you to kill all the beasts in the wood, but is there another way?
Mable is such a small girl (as everyone keeps reminding her), and she can’t even wield the sword she carries, instead dragging it behind her and slowing her movements. This is a major departure from other Metroidvania-style games (and video games in general), but it does not make her helpless.
Her power is shape-shifting. As a fairy, she anchors her sword into the ground and flies–pulling her sword back to her slices through enemies. As she defeats bosses, she gains their power to use for combat or to traverse the dark fantasy world she finds herself in. You can’t just stand still and swing a weapon; movement is combat and it can take some thought and creativity to figure out how to fight and move. This all takes some getting used to, and there’s definitely a learning curve as you have to develop a whole different set of gaming muscle memory.
One of the most interesting aspects of Mable and the Wood is that you can play it entirely without killing. Each boss you kill or don’t kill affects the environment and story. You can choose to find the secret way out of a boss fight, but then you’ll be without that animal’s abilities in your shape-shifting repertoire. You can choose to avail yourself of this creature’s powers, but its death adds to the darkness of this dying world and increases the game’s difficulty. With a rich story and multiple endings, you can explore not only the world, but the gameplay options as well.
Playing on PC, the game recommends that you plug in a controller, specifically an Xbox controller. As a predominantly console gamer, I appreciated the controller compatibility. As a predominantly PlayStation gamer, however, I had to figure out how to translate the Xbox controller instructions displayed on the screen to my PS4 controller.
It definitely takes time to get the hang of each creature power as you acquire them (if you do), and I found some parts frustrating to get through. But that’s part of Mable and the Wood‘s charm. The difficulty, the pixel graphics–all reminded me of the retro games I grew up with that don’t hold your hand with a tutorial. It gives you the satisfaction of working it out yourself, and the game experience is better for it. Overall, Mable and the Wood is a very unique take on a familiar genre.