Mable & The Wood

“Mable & The Wood” by Andrew StewartFat Bard (Zach Fendelman & Patrick Crecelius), Chris W. Early, Maarten Boot, swonqi & Graffiti Games.

“[A m]etroidvania where you can take the form of the bosses that you kill, changing how you’re able to explore the interconnected world. It’s also a [m]etroidvania where you don’t have to kill anyone.”

The story of “Mable & The Wood” has its roots in the game jam culture. The first prototype of the title was created as a submission for the 32nd edition of the Ludum Dare, titled “Mable: The Journey”. A lot has changed since then, as Mable is not on a quest any longer to just slay all the demons in the woods with an oversized sword and by changing between her human as well as her fairy form. While these mechanics are still available and expanded in the full release, they are not the single focus any longer.

That’s because “Mable & The Wood” gives you the possibility to beat it without killing anyone or anything, a pacifist route, so to say. I love this idea, honestly, but it turns out to be an overwhelmingly difficult task compared to other titles with such a concept like “UNDERTALE”, where you can more or less choose not to fight anybody in a lethal way. In “Mable & The Wood”, it’s sadly very easy to kill enemies without any intention, as you will have to switch to your fairy form to overcome obstacles and passages, as Mable can’t jump in her human form – and afterwards she’ll pull her magic sword from the starting point right to her new place. Any monster in this way gets slaughtered.

The core idea is still great and with some patience it’s surely possible. But I have to admit that the game offers a much better flow when you decide to give in to a bit of violence. Why? Well, “Mable & The Wood” features a bunch of clever boss fights, and whenever you killed one of them, you can shapeshift yourself into their form. Killed the giant spider called Queen of the Wood? Great, now you can turn into a spider, shoot your webs and climb them, allowing you to easily explore more places! Or maybe you murdered the aggressive mole? Good for you, now you can dig through certain materials!

Overall, I think it’s a lovely game, although it could use some polish here and there, as the physics sometimes feel a bit off, making some of the platforming stages unnecessarily difficult to overcome. Still, “Mable & The Wood” was made with a big heart plus great ideas, so why don’t you give it a try yourself? This journey can result in multiple endings, depending on your personal playing style. Will you turn out to be the shapeshifter of all forms, your strength built up on the corpses of innocent creatures, or will you be the humble Mable in the end, the girl who saves all the lands as half human, half fairy? We’ll see.