Big Mouth Strikes Again: The Maw

By Alec Meer on March 12th, 2009 at 5:31 pm.

RPS knows all. Sometimes we don’t, though. Hush, it’s okay: don’t lose your faith. Gods can be flawed. For instance, we weren’t particularly aware of The Maw until Steam popped up a big splash-message about it a couple of days ago. It’s not our fault: we’re really very stupid. Also, there hasn’t been much of a pre-release build-up for some reason, and perhaps most importantly there isn’t a demo, the life-blood of unknown-factor games. So this is something you’ll have to take a gamble on. And you should because – woah nelly – I think this could just be our next World of Goo. Maybe.

Update – Heliocentric reveals there is a demo after all! Meer fails at basic research.


Admittedly I’m still only very early into Twisted Pixel Games‘ gluttonous romp, and I’ll follow up this post with Proper Thunking in a Wot I Think verdict in a few days. From what I’ve seen so far, it needs flagging up to you good girls and boys as soon as possible, however. I shall do so, through the medium of interprative dance. You can’t see me doing that, unfortunately (at least not without subscribing to SexyAlecCam for £18 a month), so I’d better write some words too. Sigh!

The Maw is a puzzle-platformer-chomper, employing the sort of buddy mechanic that the consoles see so much of with their Banjo, Daxter, Clank & Earl games, but that we don’t see much of outside of Sam & Max. You play a sweet-voiced alien guy (he reminds me of a more jocular Kif from Futurama), and your indirectly-controlled companion is the titular Maw. The Maw is hungry. Always hungry. All other life in the game is there to be consumed by the Maw – but in a sort of Katamari riff, he can only eat certain stuff once he’s reached a certain size. By eating smaller beasties, naturally. Then there’s a little Kirby in there, in that gobbling up specific creatures grants Maw excellent special abilities – such as flame breath that can raze forests, or an elctro-zap to stun hardier creatures.

Again, I’m only a few levels in, but the Goo comparison comes from a) the effortless, wordless charm of the visuals and audio and b) so far, it’s a constantly evolving challenge. Twisted Pixel seem, like 2D Boy, to have squeezed an incredible number of variations out of a very simple control set. You’re piling knowledge and abilities onto each other almost with realising it, and as the initial hints relax, you start employing the game’s cheerfully crazed logic to each new situation yourself. Throughout, there’s the twin goals of progressing yourself to the next area, and of working out how to get Maw something bigger and better to eat. Want to feed him a flame-beast? You’ll need to douse it in water first, or it’ll set his big green tongue on fire. Want to access an area hidden behind an electric fence? You’ll need to attach your electro-leash/whip to floating cloud-creatures. This is a game to giggle and gasp at: so far, at least. Admittedly it doesn’t quite have that polished-to-perfection feel of Goo, but it’s certainly dripping with similar character and cleverness.

And then there’s The Maw himself. We’ve become used to game dogs – for that’s what he is, really; a big, purple, translucent, gelatinous dog – being faithful creatures. They’re there to help you, fight for you and to employ their supreme tracking abilities off their own back. The Maw, by contrast, is a real dog – the one that stretches impatiently at his leash, elasto-pings you backwards when he suddenly grinds to a halt to sniff something (or, more relevantly, set it on fire for no particular reason), scarpers in terrified panic if he sees something bigger than him, and generally makes life as hard as he makes it easy. This, of course, only makes him more loveable. His unruliness seems balanced just enough that it’s more endearing than annoying, but I’ve little doubt it’ll be the basis of a puzzle or two later.

Anyway, full verdict early next week, as there’s no guarantee it can sustain itself across several hours. Try the demo or see if this video sufficiently tickles your happy-glands:

Jim complains it’s too slow, but I like its relaxdness. If you’re hungry for it, you can drop £9/$9 on the full thing (Goddammit that’s unfair to Britishers). It’s also been on Xbox Live Arcade for a little bit, so that’s another way to take a look. Y’know, if you must.

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50 Comments »

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  1. yns88 says:

    I played it for a while. It’s fun, and has amazing graphics for an indie title, but I got bored by the slow movement speed and utter lack of challenge. Maybe it’ll get better later?

  2. Monchberter says:

    Was that a Quick Time Event i spotted? In the trailer?!

    God, they’re brave…

  3. Heliocentric says:

    blockquote cite=””>and perhaps most importantly there is a demo,
    Fixed

    http://www.playgreenhouse.com/game/TWSPX-000001-01/
    (the second link is direct to the dedmo from the abopve page but hell, the below link could break)
    http://www.playgreenhouse.com/php/public/tracking/downloads.php?sku=TWSPX-000001-01&platform=win

    dont tell me why steam doesnt have the demo

  4. Heliocentric says:

    NOOOO!!! damn, i should login for the edit function…

    its the link that matter.

  5. Dave says:

    I must say I’m enjoying the 80’s music theme in today’s post titles.

  6. yns88 says:

    There aren’t really any QTEs in the game other than “press space to dodge bullet”. And really, you would be able to just move out of the way if the bullets didn’t home in on you.

    The PC controls are pretty half-assed per usual. The mouse-controlled camera is sluggish and unwieldy even on the highest sensitivity setting, the movement buttons can’t be remapped, and the defaults for the rest don’t have much reasoning behind them.

  7. ...hmm... says:

    I would totally pay for sexy alec cam. And smiths + gaming = Internet explosion.. I may be wrong but hasn’t this been out ok consoles for about a month? Hmm. Consoles smell.

  8. LewieP says:

    I’m 4 levels in, and whilst I really like a lot about it, it is a little too slow paced for my liking. Like it takes about 10 times longer to do something than it does to work out how to do it.

    And getting 100% on the levels so far seems to boil down to “do a lot of backtracking”.

    I love how it looks though. It looks a lot like what I remember N64 games looking like, but shinier.

    Works really well with a 360 pad, but I plan to see how the KBAM works next time I play.

  9. LewieP says:

    Oh, also, my guess is that Steam doesn’t have the demo because they wanted to keep it greenhouse exclusive, maybe as a thank you to the Penny-Arcade guys, because the game got a lot of publicity from winning the PAX10 last year.

  10. Premium User Badge

    MacBeth says:

    Saw this pop up on the Steam news thingy. Thought to myself “If this was any good, it would have appeared on RPS by now, so it must be rubbish” and ignored it.

    Remember, with great power comes great irresponsibility…

  11. Dolphan says:

    This has been on XBLA for a while right? Someone wasn’t too positive about it on Eurogamer.

  12. Heliocentric says:

    Order of investigation.
    1)Play demo with keyboard/mouse and then select better method for task 2.

    2)place son in front of game. Log smiles, and frowns. Smiles^2-frowns^2=v where v represents the value of the product in karma.

  13. bansama says:

    I actually pre-ordered this the day it turned up on Steam as I thought it was cute enough for my eldest daughter to enjoy. But even when she isn’t around, it’s a real blast to play =)

  14. The_B says:

    Two things: can it then be downloaded from the Playgreenhouse website by Britishers and thus we only have to pay the $9.95 US (£7.15) or do we lose out on anything/have to pay some sort of tax charge from there?

    Secondly, SexyAlecCam is only popular cause you’re a guy…

  15. rob says:

    I am a thicky thicko. How on earth do you get past that rock in the demo?

  16. LewieP says:

    As far as I am aware, all users pay the same price on Greenhouse.

    This is from a while back, but the Greenhouse community manager said this about their pricing (from back when the service launched, so not sure if things have changed since)

    “we aim to be platform agnostic, I can imagine that we wouldn’t want to penalize you because of where you live. The only reason I can think that a game would cost more in certain regions is if heavy localization required, and I don’t think we’ll be running into that in the near future.”

  17. The_B says:

    I suppose then the question is, do I care £1.50 enough for achievements and Steam -not have to worry about where I put the download exe in the future – integration?

    Unfortunately, that may be a yes.

  18. cole says:

    Eh, yeah, im stuck on the rock two.. haven’t a clue what to do…

  19. Theory says:

    Well isn’t this useless: I’m stuck on the very first level. There’s a lump of rock and a bit of fallen rocket masking an invisible wall in my path and I’ve run out of ideas. The only things not eaten are the tree, the bits of rocket further back, the blades or grass and these blue motes. None of them seem to interest the maw.

  20. Hypocee says:

    Greenhouse has achievements…

  21. cole says:

    Likewise. I can’t progress past the first level ! The rock seems completely impassable. Sure, I’m missing something, but what ?

  22. LewieP says:

    There is a button for “pick up objects”, not sure what it is on the keyboard, but it is “B” on a 360 controller.
    Unless I am mistaken, you just need to press that, and the wire thing you got will pick up the rock, you can then drag it out of your way.

  23. rob says:

    Help us someone, you’re our only hope.

  24. cole says:

    Hmm interesting, when i try the attach key absolutely nothing happens. i press ‘e’, nothing, I right click, nothing. Rebinding the keys doesn’t help either. Am I the only person with this problem ?

  25. cole says:

    I’m beginning to suspect the demo is broken somehow, since the rock seems impassable. Perhaps this is why it isn’t up on steam ?

  26. rob says:

    cole, I’ve not tried this since I uninstalled the demo but did you try using paper? That usually works.

  27. Markoff Chaney says:

    Shotgun trumps both.

  28. yns88 says:

    I don’t know, a large enough rock might just win out over a shotgun.

  29. Arnulf says:

    I purchased The Maw on XbLive and played through it. I have purchased World of Goo recently on Steam, and haven’t even finished chapter 2 yet…

    The Maw is definitely not a new WoG. Although it’s a funny little game. Has nice ideas. Maybe they’ll release additional levels.

  30. Max says:

    I love the charm of the game (it’s irresistibly cute when Frank calls for Maw) but I can’t get past that damn rock on the first level of the demo! I can see there’s a pick up objects button, but it doesn’t do anything.

  31. LewieP says:

    If any of you have 360 pads, try with that, maybe the demo has issues with KBAM controls. I know I had no problem with that bit with a 360 controller in the demo.

    @Arnulf, there is already two DLC levels on the 360, Brute Force and River Redirect for 100ms points each. I gather that they will be made available on PC too.

  32. The_B says:

    Narp.

    I’ve got a 360 pad and had exactly the same problem, no response by pressing B whatsoever. Nor any of the other buttons like Y and the like for the spin round described. Only button that works is X. Is there supposed to be a cutscene to introduce the new abilities that hasn’t kicked in or something to ‘unlock’ the other controls?

  33. Gunrun says:

    I can’t get it working either, although I’m tempted to buy it anyway, as I don’t think the full game will have this issue.

  34. LewieP says:

    Just spoke to Mike from Twisted Pixel
    “On the immovable rock thing, we suspect that is a legitimate bug that exists only in the trial version. We are talking with Hothead, the company that handled development of the PC version. I don’t think it will take long to fix.”

  35. Hobbes says:

    @Gunrun

    Having just bought it, after getting the immovable rock in the demo, I can confirm that the problem didn’t manifest in the full version. At least, not for me.

    Hmm, I wonder if they’ll release a cuddly Maw toy…

  36. yns88 says:

    Arnulf:

    They already have released several additional levels for the XBox 360 version. The PC version has a “Download Content” option, but it currently does nothing, so hopefully the PC version will be getting the DLC soon.

  37. Tei says:

    Nice small game. I have already finished it. Sad that has this poor consolified control scheme. A bit too slow the mouse looking, and all. Not a 10/10 for all these errors. Not epic. But very good.

  38. Hypocee says:

    The rock was just RMB for me (or ‘Mouse1′, as the game helpfully describes it). I assume everybody having the problem has eaten enough of the cute puffballs to increase the Maw’s size. It seems like the kind of thing that might invisibly trigger next-area movability.

    Frank’s a mercenary little bugger isn’t he? From cuddling puffballs to hunting them down en masse in two seconds flat.

  39. bansama says:

    Yes the PC version will be getting extra levels, the developer wants to price them at $1.25, but it’s up to Valve to okay that.

  40. PC Monster says:

    @Rob / @Cole

    I have the rock-not-moving problem, too. I’ve gone nuts with the mouse at that spot, pressing/clicking every action and movement combo I can think of, from every angle and position, and the blighter just won’t shift. I’ve also been all over every other piece of terrain and object just in case the game was being deliberately obtuse. Thoroughly ruined the demo for me (‘Wait…that can’t be all there is?!?’) as it was only coming here this morning that confirmed that was what was supposed to be happening!

    And yes, the treacle-drowned camera was bugging the hell out of me as well. God only knows what it would be like in the full game.

    based on what little I’ve seen so far I think World of Goo’s crown is safe for now, Alec.

  41. Ian says:

    Will have to give this a lookie. Looks like an amusing distraction. :)

  42. Tei says:

    Now lets make a Angry Internet Men comment,with all, with 4chan memes and SomethingAnfull wit:

    Short game is short. It feels like playing the teaser video of a Pixar movie.

    The money it cost worth it, but is 3 hours simple gameplay.

  43. rob says:

    I ate all the puffballs but the purple guy did not increase in size – I guess this is the issue?

  44. Tei says:

    My suggestions for this game:

    The controls are consolified, this mean that you are suppose to use all combos and keys, like [space] [mouse0] [mouse1] [F] … We are acustomed to PC games, that are somewhat simpler and logical, where everything can be made with [mouse0] and only a few rare things need [mouse1] and most of these are optional. So our verbs as PC gamers is [mouse0] [mouse1], but the verbs of this game are stuff like [mouse1][space] [mouse1][space][mouse1] and stuff.. theres also stuff (like moving rocks) that need [mouse1] mantained pressed.

    Theres some obscure comment to be made about calling left click [mouse0]. I am programmer, and a byzarro guy as the next byzarro guy, so I start couting by 0. But maybe, and only maybe, It would have been slighty more intuitive to call the buttons [mouse1] and [mouse2] or [LBM] and [RBM] or something like that. Also, something can be commented about a game that need to repeat the keys needed like always and anywhere. Like.. .the player never really learn to use your game. Is obscure like that, in that obscurity style of obscurity. Or maybe we can blame the PC gamers, for his insistence on using a mouse. This game probablly feel more logical with a Pad.

  45. Craymen Edge says:

    I played the Xbox360 version.

    It’s lovely, and cute and charming, although probably not WoG levels of lovely and cute and charming. I did really enjoy it though.

  46. Henrik J says:

    Does the full game allow you to customize the movement controls? WSAD is unplayable to me

  47. The Sombrero Kid says:

    @Hypocee

    lol yeah i thought that was pretty funny

  48. Tei says:

    @Henrik J: Surprising.. NO, no rebind of WASD keys for you. That is weird, because I suppose is something you can add to any game in 2 hours of work. I don’t know why, but seems is a sloppy port on this area. Weird.

  49. El Diablo con Queso says:

    Ah, but the demo IS available via Steam.

    Maw Demo Here

  50. PoisonedV says:

    Love how they have ‘rumble’ but it doesnt work with any of my controllers