Mable & The Wood Review: Shape of…
Kalvin Martinez / Jan 6th, 2020 No Comments
Shape shifting is a wildly intriguing concept. How would changing shape affect how you do normal things? For Mable & The Wood, it uses shape shifting to challenge how we play video games.
Mable & The Wood does a lot of cool things. It has unique gameplay and a subtle sense of humor, but it is marred by some odd system mechanics.
When a group of weird, creepy cultist summon a savior, they are greeted by Mable. The sight of the diminutive, red haired figure shocks the cultist. Doubting the prowess of the would be savior, Mable leaves them to their superstition and rituals to prove them wrong.
In order to prevent the coming ruin, Mable must venture across the land and track down great monsters causing havoc. She must take the form of these beasts whether by killing them or through other means.
The most interesting gameplay wrinkle is you can avoid killing if you so choose. While this is a cool idea, many will find themselves preferring a more traditional route. Killing is the path of least resistance surprisingly.
Shapes and Forms
What makes Mable a compelling protagonist is she is incapable of combat. While she drags a sword along with her, she can’t actually swing it. The only way for her to perform any offense is to transform into another form.
When she transforms she drops the sword at the point of transformation, and when she reverts back it calls her sword back to her. By using the trajectory of the sword boomeranging back to her, Mable is able to inflict damage. In order to get the best of monsters large and small, she needs to be crafty.
Mable is able to transform into additional forms as she steals them from the bosses in the game. At first she is able to turn into a fairy giving her the ability to flutter around to reach heights. Eventually, she gains spider and golem form giving her more traversal options.
Regardless of her form, she only has a finite amount of time for each transformation. When her stamina meter runs out she reverts back to her original form. If she doesn’t plan her transformations smartly than she’ll revert back over spikes, lava or some other hazard resulting in an untimely and entirely avoidable death.
Due to Mable’s transformation traversal, the game has a unique platforming experience. The only way past obstacles is by transforming, but as previously stated the limited stamina means death is one misjudgement away. The biggest drawback to Mable & The Wood is how punishing death is in the game.
That isn’t to say Mable & The Wood doesn’t have a good check point system. It does. However, Mable collects gems as she explores The Wood, which are used to buy useful items. If she gets hit she loses many of these gems, and if you die than you lose a ton of gems.
Sure, a Dark Souls style ghost appears allowing her to reclaim her gems if she hits it with her sword. Except the gem filled spirit inconsistently generates when she dies. It is such an issue that collecting gems is kind of pointless. Mable won’t use them before she dies again and spending time re-collecting them means more heartache.
While it may be a small complaint, it mars what is otherwise a fun and challenging experience. Mable & The Wood has great boss fights and innovative gameplay with an understated sense of humor. The game simply becomes grueling by setting up such a silly resource management element sucking the fun out.
Mable & The Wood takes a lot of big chances. Although the game doesn’t always deliver, it deserves credit for its big swings. While its gameplay has a lot of innovative ideas, it is its matter of fact writing that shines brightest.
Mable & The Wood was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.
tags: Mable & The Wood , review , Switch