The Maw Review
By Chad Montague |
One of the best Xbox Live Arcade games of early 2009 has quickly found its way over to Windows for digital download. It's an independently developed and published videogame from Twisted Pixels, a company that has previously done contract work on NBA Ballers: Chosen One and Blitz the League II. This is the studio's first original game and it's a good one. The Maw is a traditional platformer that doesn't pack the depth or scope of a game like Banjo-Kazooie but makes up for it in excellent visuals, sound and animations.
The Maw stars a little alien named Frank and his pal, Maw. The duo begin the day in captivity aboard a spaceship but when the ship crashes, they begin their escape. The Maw is little more than a purple blob with a giant, fanged mouth and one eye. He enjoys eating and little else. Frank is the brains of the group and the one you directly control. To escape the evil captors, you're going to have to feed Maw.
Your fanged friend starts small and can't eat much more than some little pink puffballs, but feed him enough and he'll start to grow. Once that happens, more little critters become part of the menu. As you move through the game, Maw will continue to get bigger, and bigger, and bigger. By the end, you'll be leading around a gigantic garbage disposal that can eat just about anything. It's a cool transformation that gives you a striking visual representation of your progress.
Click the image above to watch our video review of The Maw (HD available).
Of course, finding things to feed the Maw isn't always cut and dry. You'll have to do some light platforming and basic puzzle solving with Frank to reach some of the tasty animals that the Maw can't reach himself. The Maw isn't totally worthless though. The phrase "you are what you eat" is taken literally here. For example, if you eat a fire lizard, Maw can breathe fire to burn down trees and other obstacles. My favorite, though, is what happens when you eat a rhinoceros beetle. The Maw then grows a horn and can stampede his way through most any barrier while Frank get dragged behind, scraping and bouncing along the ground.
The pacing is quite good in The Maw. Though the game isn't particularly long, the levels each have a unique layout and new powers are consistently introduced to keep the gameplay fresh. There isn't a high level of difficulty here and, aside from occasionally being forced to pause and think about what to do next, there weren't any moments where I wasn't moving forward and having fun. If you're looking for a challenge, The Maw isn't for you. But if you enjoyed the recent Prince of Persia then this title will be right up your alley.
The sounds in The Maw were a particular high point for me. The soundtrack is excellent and fits the feel of the game perfectly. The sound effects, particularly the way Frank calls for the Maw when you try to activate the leash and he's a bit too far away, are hilarious. I may have annoyed a few co-workers by playing this game far too loud, but I offer no apologies to them.
A face only a big purple mother could love.
The graphics, too, are great. The colors are vibrant and the animations are smooth, both of which really add a lot to the total package. It would have been nice to have a bit more variety from one level to the next, but it's clear that Twisted Pixel crammed as much as it could into a small package for easy download.
The only noticeable downside to The Maw is that it feels a bit slim. That shouldn't be a surprise given the fact that this started as an Xbox Live Arcade title, but after you dive in and see the high-quality visuals, sound and game mechanics it's easy to forget that this is a small, downloadable game. The levels are fairly linear and this most definitely isn't one of those platformers where there are dozens upon dozens of things to do. In other words, after the brief ride, this isn't the kind of game that you'll be replaying over and over again.
It should also be noted that the Steam version of The Maw that I played didn't have functioning leaderboards just yet and instead showed that nobody had played the game at all.