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A Look at The Maw
The Maw is a game that has made great waves in the independent gaming circle over the last few months. It's an inventive platforming video game that mixes elements of Kirby with some more traditional gameplay to give a very interesting experience. A nice touch of dark comedy adds the cherry on top. Great kudos should also be given to the developers, who've created an elaborate and humorous background story on the game's website.
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The gameplay centers around the titular Maw and his handler Frank. Frank is a telepathic alien who has been captured by galactic bounty hunters along with Maw. The ship that they are on crashes into a nearby planet, allowing the odd pair to team up and make their escape.
Frank uses a special collar recovered from the bounty hunters to control Maw and solve various puzzles. The core gameplay revolves around finding cute creatures to feed to Maw though. This takes a few forms. Frank starts by dragging Maw around and helping him catch cute little animals called Yums. Things then change as Maw grows larger and gains the ability to eat bigger and bigger animals.
Maw also has the ability to gain some abilities by devouring certain animals. For example, Maw can become a fire breathing beast, a balloon worm, an electric blob, or a bull-headed beetle. All of these little things come into play as you have to work through the level and feed Maw enough to get him to move forward.
On this note, one of the most satisfying things was to actually see Maw grow. He noticeably grows larger as the game goes forward. This isn't just a graphical choice either. It becomes harder to control Maw as he dwarfs Frank in size and becomes more difficult to navigate through the map.
One final note is that this all works well. The gameplay is intuitive and moves at a good pace. There were very few moments where I was really confused about what I needed to do.
The only real downside is that there just isn't a ton of game. It took me a little more than 3 hours to actually beat most of the game. Two more downloadable levels have been released for only a dollar more and a third is on the way. These each add about a half hour of gameplay to The Maw, so if you want a little extra gameplay you can have it.
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I feel that the story deserves a special mention. It's just delightful. It's so odd. It has an almost sickeningly sweet style at times. Maw runs around making excited grunts and waging his tongue. He scares easily and is very comical in the cutscenes. The humor is so dark at times though, with the Maw excitedly catching cute bunny-like animals that you toss into his mouth. It's just very original and something that isn't done enough in games.
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The graphics aren't bad. It's very simple with a focus on cartoon styles for most of the characters. The levels have some nice detail to them, but the backgrounds are pretty drab overall. The intricacy of the creatures makes up for some of this though. Either way, the graphics are spectacular for a cheap game.
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The game doesn't have very strict requirements. It needs 1 Gig of RAM, a 256 MB video card, and a 2.2 Ghz processor. I played this on my XPS with 2.6 Ghz of processing power and 3 Gigs of RAM. I didn't have any problems playing it maxed out, so I doubt that it should present much trouble for anyone on lower settings. If you are unsure if it will run, then you could try out the demo first.
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The Maw is a great game. It's only fault is that it's a little short, but even that isn't really a problem. This $10 title is just what a game should be. It has varied levels that present something new each time. The gameplay is familiar but innovative. The story is cartoony and dark. At the end of the day, it was just a really fun experience that I heartily recommend.