Indie games are like art films – you like the concept, but you would rather spend time on the dhishum dhisum. Yet, over the last couple of years, indie games have been making headway with the mainstream audience. Two good examples are Braid and World of Goo – they won universal critical acclaim, wowed gamers everywhere, won awards, and most importantly, sold like crazy. Xbox LIVE Arcade, PSN and Wii Shop are great distribution systems for these games and make them easily accessible for us.
The first big indie hit of 2009 is Twisted Pixel’s The Maw on the XBLA, a puzzle game set in an alien world. The story is simple; an alien is captured in a spaceship. In the spaceship are many creatures, including a purple blob which some say is the most dangerous creature in the world. The ship crash-lands and it is up to the alien (the player) and the Maw to take the story to its completion. On the way are numerous creatures and traps and battles which have to be traversed to take the Maw to its final destination.
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The Maw is indeed a dangerous creature – it eats everything. It grows in size by eating, which enables it to eat larger creatures, and it can also take on the characteristic of some of the creatures it eats. The levels are crossed using this attribute-absorbing capability to solve puzzles. The alien himself provides a bit of help by reaching areas the Maw cannot eat, guiding the Maw and lending a helping hand with some of the puzzles. Each level is built around one special attribute of the many creatures dotting the alien world. Some of the puzzles take a bit of thinking, but are never very difficult. So the Maw becomes a fire breathing blob, a floating blob and a rampaging beetle among other avatars. The liberal hint system and the inability to die, however, make the game a bit too easy for veteran puzzle and adventure gamers.
The game oozes cuteness – the player character, the numerous creatures, and the Maw. The Maw is definitely the highlight of the game. It’s designed to perfection; a purple blob that keeps on growing as it tries to satiate its hunger. The expressions of fear, contentment and the gluttony, signified by a lolling green tongue, are spot on and will appeal to all ages. The scenery is beautiful and what I initially took to be poor textures turned out be beautifully drawn tiles. The music and the sound effects are great and gel with the game perfectly – the best being the soulful “Mawwww”.
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The biggest complaint of the game is its length; it will take about 3 hours to finish for the average gamer. The replay value is minimal unless you want to get all the achievements and compete for best times on the leaderboard. There is talk of introducing three new downloadable levels at 100 Microsoft Points each, which will extend the gameplay a bit. The other major complaint is the camera, which resists all efforts to pitch above the horizon, and this can lead to a bit of hunting around for the correct path through a level.
At 800 points (a shade above Rs. 500), this is worth the money if you are an indie game lover. Normally, the verdict would have been a borrow to try the game out, but since XBLA games cannot be borrowed, and the demo is extremely short, I would say just buy it; you will not be disappointed.
IndianVideoGamer Verdict: 7/10 (Buy)
The Maw is now available for the Xbox 360 via the Xbox LIVE Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points