MABLE & THE WOOD is a 2D action/exploration game set in a land where the overuse of magic is draining the world of its colour.
You play the part of a shape-shifting girl who can take the form of the beasts that she slays, but whose power is slowly destroying the world she is trying to save. The use of different forms requires magic that can only be restored by slaying the creatures of the wood. Is it any wonder they've turned on you?
Explore the world to find the source of the darkness before the forest dies. Will you banish the darkness from the world, or will you become it?
- Combat is movement: Use different attacks as a means of traversal, and uncover the secrets of a world you thought you knew.
- Choose your own path: Explore the dying world, picking the levels you want to tackle and in what order.
- Grow in power: Improve and develop Mable's abilities by exploring more areas, but beware you do not linger. As the colour fades, your journey becomes ever more perilous.
- Kill bosses to take their form: Choose to attack boss monsters or avoid them altogether. These beasts are the last of their kind and slaying them unlocks new shapes for you to transform into.
The original MABLE & THE WOOD was created in 48 hours for the Ludum Dare game jam in April 2015, which had 2,821 games created for the theme 'An Unconventional Weapon'. It was very well received, finishing in the top 50 for 4 categories (including a number 6 placing) in a competition that had 2,821 entries.
The original version of the game, titled Mable: The Journey, was a simple combat based game in which you controlled a shape-shifting girl who could either drag her sword as a human or drop it and fly away as a fairy, recalling the sword to your new position and killing any enemies in the way.
This mechanic remains in the current iteration of the game, but now makes up only one of that many shapes that you can change into. There is also a renewed focus on using the various combat moves to help you reach different parts of the levels.
There is a pre-alpha demo available to play here.
There has been a recent glut of retro inspired games using modern design techniques and advances in the way that we think about games to come up with something new: games like Hyper Light Drifter, Undertale, Wildfire, Moon Hunters and (hopefully) MABLE & THE WOOD.
From a gameplay perspective, MABLE & THE WOOD takes inspiration from games such as Guacamelee and Noitu Love 2. Both of these games take the basic framework of action platformers and turn it into something else entirely. They do this by changing how you control your character and traverse the levels.
MABLE & THE WOOD has also been heavily inspired by bigger, open world games and what they get wrong. In many of these games, there is a beautifully realised world that you can explore, but it is rare that you can have any meaningful impact on that world. Sure, you can blow some cars up and get chased by the cops but, apart from occasional (and often temporary) changes triggered at a point in the narrative, the world itself remains the same. You may as well not be there at all.
Games can do more than this. We can do better than this.
Further Gameplay Details
In the words of Lena LeRay, from this write up she did for indiegames.com on the original prototype:
"This is my favorite implementation of the theme thus far; the sword looks normal, but is never used directly. Instead, you turn into a fairy and upon your return to normal, the sword comes back to you, damaging anything on its way to you. Color is leeched from the forest when you're in fairy form and returned upon the death of enemies."
Things have changed a little since then.
At the beginning of each level, you select a form from those that you have unlocked (in a similar manner to how you select the masks in Hotline Miami. These shapes are unlocked by killing the boss monsters, who are the last creatures of their kind, changing how you attack and travel through a level. Some examples are:
- Spider Queen: The sword is fired outwards on a web and embeds itself in the scenery. You then pull yourself towards it, catapulting yourself forward.
- Stone Giant: A variation on the fairy form, but instead of killing enemies, the sword turns them to stone to create platforms for you to travel through the level.
- Hydra: A risky form - it only takes one hit to die but, if the sword is grounded, you will be resurrected in its place.
Taking on these different forms drains the world of its colour and uses up your reserves of magic. When your magic reaches zero, you are immediately returned to human form and cannot change shape again until your reserve has been restored.
This is done by killing creatures (or in the case of the Stone Giant, by standing on them once you have turned them to stone). Your magic also recharges slowly when you stand on the ground, but this drains the magic from the world.
The world is explored via an overworld map, which has multiple routes allowing you to explore as many levels as you want to, or avoid some areas entirely.
You can also avoid boss fights, but killing them is the only way to gain new forms.
You can also upgrade Mable's abilities by gathering the collectibles in the levels, which may be one reason you want to explore more. However, the world will change and react to your actions. Certain areas will become more perilous making the later stages of your journey more difficult.