For all its classic fantasy setting, Mable and the Wood twists the tropes of the Metroidvania genre from the first moment of the game.
You play as a small girl, summoned by a cultist ritual and tasked with saving their doomed world Despite the fact that you are so small you can barely carry your own sword, you must hut and kill the Great Beasts to fulfill the cultists’ prophecy. As you move across each platform, you have to drag it behind you. Luckily, you can shapeshift.
The tutorial level is quick and easy. It’s not hard to get the hang of your first form, but it’s temporary. When your magic runs out, you need to turn back into a girl while you recharge. This means you have to be clever about when you transform. To begin with, you have a fair bit of freedom to use your fairy form to swoop around, but as you get into darker and more dangerous territory, you need to be more careful with how you use up your energy.
With each boss you defeat, you gain the ability to take on their shape. This gives you new powers that you can use to get into new areas and take on new challenges. The first Great Beast you encounter is a giant spider whose web spinning abilities you need to be able to pass through the thick forest to the next section.
If you choose, you can play Mable and the Wood as a straightforward Metroidvania. You can slaughter indiscriminately on your way to battle each of the Great Beasts. Or you can choose to play the game differently. You can choose a non-violent route. If you get really creative, you can take secret paths through the world that don’t require you to fight. You don’t have to fulfil the prophecy dictated to you by weird robed men – you can choose your own destiny. Your decisions impact the story and there are multiple endings to unlock.
This not only provokes a little more thought than your typical fantasy quest but also gives you the chance to play through the game a few times testing out the different options. Killing creatures makes it easier to move through the story, and even extends the amount of time you can use your magic. But it also has ramifications that echo throughout the rest of the game and change the course of your future.
Mable and the Wood is an enchanting game. The art style is cute, with retro style characters moving fluidly through a lovely backdrop. It’s challenging and thought-provoking and looks fantastic. The creatures you encounter don’t break the fantasy mould a huge amount, but have enough originality that you feel a genuine sense of adventure exploring the world in all its diversity.
This game takes a creative approach to a classic genre and crafts it into something unique and immersive.