The Maw Review

In an industry where many games rely on formulaic design and re-treading the same old beaten paths to be successful, it’s very comforting to know that creative, original games do still remain. One such example is The Maw, an Xbox Live Arcade game that follows no established rules, instead setting out to define it’s own style of rather peculiar fun.

The Maw is a third-person platformer where players guide Frank, a recently liberated ex-con alien, and Maw, a purple, cycloptic blob with a razor-sharp smile worthy of its name, through eight short levels, on the road to freedom. The sans-narrative tale begins when the prison ship the two soon-to-be friends were held on crash lands on an unnamed planet, thus freeing both from the clutches of their captors.

Very early on, Frank finds a remote energy leash that lets him latch onto Maw, as well as other critters, enemies, and obstructive objects throughout the journey. The actions associated with this leash mechanic range from moving boulders out of the way, to hurling explosive creatures at enemies, to uprooting annoying sentry guns, to tossing hapless victims into the Maw’s gaping…Maw. All the Maw cares about, really, is eating; it is up to Frank to feed it. This causes Maw to grow, and to gain special abilities like fire breath, laser eyes, electro-zappers, and balloon-like floatation. These abilities, in turn, allow the dynamic duo to progress through simple puzzles leading to each level’s goal.

Controlling Maw is not as easy a task as it may sound, however, as the basic 3D controls are somewhat imprecise. Players don’t so much direct the Maw as much as simply let it tag along behind Frank. As a result, one might find him/herself running around in circles more than should be necessary in order to get the Maw to go to the exact locations desired. This often comes into play when trying to eat individual Yums (one type of Maw prey) or attack enemies/objects. A better route may have been to map the fussy camera to the D-pad and give players direct control of the Maw with the right analog stick.

Otherwise, the commands available to players work fairly well. Frank grabs the Maw with X, and everything else with B. Depending on what is in tow at that point, commands differ, but are all accomplished with simple, single-button input. This comfortable simplicity to a degree (but not entirely) redeems the game of its navigational woes. Yes, you will have fun playing The Maw.

The game’s more endearing quality is undoubtedly its presentation. The bright and colorful 3D graphics are not what one might expect from the cutting edge HD era, as they are not terribly impressive from a technical standpoint, but they do fit the game’s theme perfectly, and just about all aspects of the visuals are oozing with character. The style is reminiscent of a Pixar film, or DoubleFine’s classic gem, Psychonauts.

The audio, too, fits the bill, with a score that sounds as close to semi-humanoid alien pop music as I could possibly imagine, mixed with jazzy synth-instrument tracks and borderline elevator music. The songs blend into the action so well that one might question whether they are plain and forgettable, or simply so perfectly matched with the gameplay that they become impossible to separate. Character noises and sound effects are silly and simple, again befitting the title.

The Maw is a simple, yet enjoyable game, with charm to spare. It may not be enamoring enough to ignore its gameplay flaws and the fact that it’s not terribly deep, but despite those setbacks, it is still a refreshing change of pace that is worth playing.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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