Boring play hinders 'The Maw'

The video game provides limited chuckles, but lacks real verve.

Playing "The Maw" probably won't compel you to jump out of your chair and scream about how awesome it is, but a game's ability to evoke such a response is the exception rather than the norm. Most will silently enjoy this easy-going, brief adventure for its humor and charm, but it comes at the cost of nearly sleep-inducing game play.

In a distant galaxy under military oppression, the Maw, a round, purple, one-eyed blob with an insatiable appetite, breaks free from imprisonment and befriends your avatar, a blue, beady-eyed Martian kid. You'll carry the Maw around on a leash in search of food and revenge against its former jailers.

No one speaks a single line of dialogue in "The Maw," but the Maw will immediately endear itself to players through its demeanor and expressions. It sticks by your alien character like a loyal puppy. Actually, it basically is a puppy, tongue hanging out included. Granted, this puppy eats anyone and anything smaller than it, but still, who doesn't love puppies?

In the beginning, the Maw stands about waist-high, so it's your job to shovel other creatures into its massive mouth. Before long, it'll be large enough to laugh in the face of laser blasts from soldiers trying to restrain it.

The act of fattening the Maw up doesn't offer the level of satisfaction that it should. Any player with half a brain can figure out how the story ends within the first few minutes. The payoff for reaching the ending feels joyless.

They say that it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. That makes me wish the actual journey of "The Maw" wasn't so damn boring. Lots of little annoyances add up to bring the pace of the game down to a crawl. Your character's movement isn't built for some of the more expansive and wide-open levels, which becomes apparent when you have to backtrack to previously visited areas.

You can't jump and hold the Maw on your leash simultaneously, which makes the amount of actual platforming in "The Maw" surprisingly slim. Every time the game requires platforming, though, it becomes clear why there's so little of it: the platforming sucks. Your character has no air control, the camera angles make judging distance difficult and missing jumps usually makes you slowly slide down cliff sides, forcing you to walk back to the starting point and do everything over again.

Although the core platforming and eating mechanics lack polish, "The Maw" sure doesn't skimp on variety. Each level has a special creature whose abilities the Maw can mimic upon eating, Kirby-style. It can breathe fire, become a light balloon and electrify things to name a few. Even though the abilities are purely for puzzle-solving purposes, the game play mechanics change with each transformation, which helps alleviate the monotonous monster-munching.

"The Maw" lasts a paltry four hours with zero reasons to replay it, so don't take its 800-point price tag as a measure of its quantity (or quality). Some moments might get a chuckle or smirk out of you, but the vapid gameplay ultimately makes it forgettable.

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