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Mable & The Wood Review: Shape of…

/ Jan 6th, 2020 No Comments

Mable & The Wood Review

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.

Later Cul8ers

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.

Mable & The Wood Review
From the jump, you get your marching orders.

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 & The Wood Review
Shape shifting is core to Mable & The Wood. Utilizing different shapes to traverse and access new areas.

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.

Mable & The Wood Review
Everyone is kind of a jerk, which is a lot of the charm in Mable & The Wod.

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.

Mable & The Wood Review
The boss fights serve as both intense battles, but also a way of progress as you take the shape of your slain foe.

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.

Overall

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.

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Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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MABLE & THE WOOD REVIEW: SHAPE OF…

Gaming Illustrated RATING

Overall72%

GAMEPLAY7

Mable & The Wood has such a unique gameplay style, but it is marred by a frustrating resource element.

GRAPHICS8

The lo-fi pixel art style is both charming and gorgeous.

SOUND7

Mable & The Wood has a delightful score to help add a whimsical atmosphere.

STORY7

With a simple premise, Mable & The Wood does a lot to capitalize on its matter of fact humor.

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