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Big Mouth Strikes Again: The Maw

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:

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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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