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Mable & the Wood

Game review by
David Chapman, Common Sense Media
Mable & the Wood Game Poster Image
Shapeshifting adventure can't quite hold its form together.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Players enter the story with no real backstory, and the plot tends to stay relatively vague. Left to their own devices, players can choose to hack and slash their way through everything or avoid nearly all conflicts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As the "Bringer of Dawn," players are a blank slate without personality traits to relate to. Meanwhile, the villagers, cultists, and other characters you run into are never quite what they seem.

Ease of Play

The game tries to blend together combat and movement together, but it winds up feeling overly convoluted and clumsy. Switching between forms offers up different options, but none of them ever feel natural or fluid. Add to this the fact that the game essentially leaves players to their own devices, and it becomes a mess of trial and error, backtracking, and general frustration.

Violence

Players can avoid most combat if they choose or go into the game attacking almost anything. Most defeated enemies simply explode in a flash. There's some minor blood shown onscreen, but the game's heavily pixelated art style minimizes most of the impact.

Sex
Language

There's occasionally some minor language in the dialogue, as well as in the name of some creatures, such as the "Badass Mole."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mable & The Wood is an action/adventure game available for download on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, as well as Windows, MacOS, and Linux-based computers. Players take on the role of a shapeshifting entity summoned to fulfill a vague prophecy. The game requires a lot of back and forth exploration, with new abilities opening up access to previously inaccessible areas. Combat and movement are intertwined, which can add for the game's already confusing controls. Players can technically avoid nearly all combat in the game, choosing instead to dodge or avoid most threats. There's occasionally some minor representation of blood onscreen when characters, including the player, are injured. But the game's heavily pixelated, retro art style reduces this to little more than a few tiny red squares.

User Reviews

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What's it about?

In MABLE & THE WOOD, you've been summoned from the beyond by a cult of druids as their prophesized "Bringer of Dawn." Your mission is to hunt down and kill each of the Great Beasts of the land, absorbing their power, taking their shapes for your own, and ultimately bringing the light of hope to the land. But things are not always as they seem. As your actions begin to reveal unforeseen consequences, you being to wonder where the real threat to the people and to the realms truly lies. Are you the champion of the world meant to user in a new age of light? Or are you the harbinger of doom, biding your time and building your strength? Was the prophecy of your coming meant to instill hope in dark times? Or was it meant as a warning of your arrival, twisted and warped with its true revelations lost over the centuries?

Is it any good?

While some games take a classic presentation and combine it with innovative gameplay to create a fun mix of old and new, this game tries to reach that same potential but falls well short. The biggest problem with Mable & The Wood is that the whole thing feels like a tapestry of half-finished ideas scrambled into some mess of a presentation that's then tossed out into the world to fend for itself. The result is a game that's confusing, frustrating, and generally lacking in any sort of fun. Right from the game's opening, with the player summoned as part of some overly vague prophecy, it's hard to tell if the story is supposed to be taken seriously or is being played for laughs. One minute the dialogue is trying to riff one-liners and comedic moment, like the "official sign painter" pointing out the quality of his work. The next minute, though, you're supposed to focus on the plight of the villagers being terrorized by the creatures of the forest.

Moving past the story, the gameplay and controls are just awkward and cumbersome. In your human form, you barely move above a walking pace, weighed down by the sword you're dragging on the ground. Combat requires first dropping your sword and positioning enemies between it and you, before calling the sword back to your hand and hopefully taking out anything in its path. Your movement's also tied to different forms, such as flight as a fairy, digging as a mole, or swinging from a web as a spider. None of these feel particularly intuitive though, and quickly become more of an obstacle than any enemy you might find. Worse still, you're left to discover most of this on your own, as the game rarely gives players much in the way of direction or guidance. Mable & The Wood's lack of polish goes far past being just rough around the edges, and frankly leaves little motivation to play.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about choice in gaming. When given the option in games of either fighting enemies or avoiding conflict, how do you choose to play and why? Is the challenge of a non-violent playthrough more or less personally rewarding?

  • What are some of the more important factors that appeal to you in a game? Can you forgive awkward controls in favor of a great story? Do you prefer more freedom to explore or linear gameplay?

Game details

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