I fear that my write-up of Twisted Pixel Games’ The Maw will likely be as brief as the game itself, which took only about a day or so to fully complete, and another day at most to go back and earn some of the previously missed achievements. However, that sentence should not in the slightest be interpreted to mean that The Maw is low quality or not worth the trouble; it’s simply a very brief, family-friendly game – more of a diversion, really – that does what it sets out to do: provide some enjoyment and a few chuckles for a short amount of time.
The plot is as basic as can be expected with such a short runtime: You are an alien who’s been captured by some other aliens, and has been imprisoned in a cell aboard their ship, in a room filled with various live specimens from (presumably) across the universe. Suddenly, the ship crashes, and all captive aliens, including you, are set free to roam the countryside of whatever planet you’re on. You quickly make friends with Maw, an amorphous blob-like creature with an insatiable appetite and the ability to take on some of the characteristics of whatever he eats. Together, the two of you must make your way through several levels, eventually getting your revenge on the meanies who imprisoned you and finding a way off this world.
In addition to taking on certain characteristics throughout the game, like the ability to float or a powerful offensive dashing ram, Maw grows throughout the adventure, literally. Finding that he has a taste for almost anything that moves, the object of the game is to have him ingest as many creatures as possible, making your Cyclopian friend grow in size when he eats a certain amount. In fact, each level’s exit will remain closed to the pair until Maw has consumed a set minimum of other creatures within the level. In this way – growing bigger and bigger by eating as many creatures as possible found in the environment – the game is not unlike the Katamara Damacy series of games, minus the ball and the King of All Cosmos, of course.
Speaking of games from previous console generations, the very first thought that went through my mind upon starting a new game and seeing the landscapes I’d be adventuring through was of the original PlayStation Spyro the Dragon games. The Maw has the same visual sensibilities, with colorful but limited vistas; think also Mario 64. The Maw seems like it would have felt right at home on any console from 15 years ago. Of course, the graphics now are a little smoother than in the games referenced above, with less crunchy edges and chunky blocks. But otherwise, it has a nice, simple old-school visual appeal.
And there you have the game in a nutshell, as it were, or rather pretty much in its entirety. There are few things left to say. The game’s challenge is pretty straightforward at all times, aimed (as the characters, plot, visuals, etc clearly suggest) at younger players, and even returning to levels to get that 100% is a pretty simple matter. One note worth mentioning, however, is that I was surprised to feel a small twinge of sadness at the game’s completion; despite the brief time I’d spent with these two characters, it’s easy to build a small attachment to them, some of which is also due to the humorous grunts and gesticulations Maw makes whenever he’s got an idea or gets frightened. If you’ve got a young gamer around, you can’t go wrong with this one for a day or two – you may even sneak in some ‘me’ time with the game when no one’s looking…