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Mable & The Wood Review: Pixeled Potential Not Quite Reached

Mable & The Wood is the latest entry to join in on the genre of Metroidvania, but brings with it an entirely different dynamic that impacts both its combat system and its story overall: killing enemies is entirely optional. That’s a good thing too, considering the player-controlled protagonist can barely lift her sword, and instead, uses her shapeshifting and telepathic abilities to save a dying world. Although the concept is interesting and the game’s simplistic pixel art design is well-executed, much like player’s sword, Mable & The Wood fails to really pick up at any point.

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A Trip Through The Woods

Mable & The Wood tells the story of the Bringer of Dawn who has been summoned by cultists to rid the world of giant, unruly beasts. Unexpectedly, the Bringer’s form is actually that of a red-headed female child. Even though she is unable to use her sword in the traditional sense, using her shapeshifting powers, she can throw it at enemies, or drop the sword and call it back to her hand in a straight line, taking out any enemies who get caught in its path. Of course, although the cultists want her to kill everything, players have the option to not kill anything. This decision leads to multiple endings, highlighting Mable & The Wood’s replayability.

The player’s ability to shapeshift into animals is dependent on the legendary beasts that they kill. The Bringer of Dawn can use her fairy form to fly, her mole form to tunnel her way through the ground, and her spider form to web-swing through each area (which was my personal favorite). Each ability can only be used for a short amount of time, which adds to the game’s strategy and overall difficulty. That is, if you’re not already pulling your hair out from Mable & The Wood’s technical difficulties.

Potential Bogged Down By Technical Issues

Upon starting a new game, Mable & The Wood recommends using a controller. I, however, found this to be worse than using the keyboard and mouse. I tried out both a wired DualShock 4 controller, as well as a wired Xbox One controller, with neither one working as well as it should have. Buttons would work sometimes, while not doing anything at other times. There also seemed to be a slight delay with my command and the character’s actions. Both of these were resolved when using a keyboard and mouse, but Mable & The Wood’s controls overall are pretty tricky to get the hang of as it is. I also encountered a few glitches, which included getting stuck in walls and having to restart from my last checkpoint. Thankfully, checkpoints are pretty easy to come by, so I didn’t have to backtrack too much.

Mable & The Wood has some awesome ideas built upon a solid foundation of the simplistic art design and surprisingly good audio. Some fine-tuning is needed to be able to bring those ideas to life, which could add value for Mable & The Wood bringing a fun, new dynamic to the Metroidvania genre, while potentially even being a solid option for the speedrunning community. Future updates that fix some of the game’s technical issues would no doubt give me plenty of reason to venture back into the woods again, maybe even on the Switch when that version is released next month.

2.5 Out Of 5 Stars

A PC review copy of Mable & The Wood was provided to TheGamer for this review. Mable & The Wood is available now for PC, and will be released for the Xbox One on September 18th, as well as the Nintendo Switch on October 10th.

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