XBLA Review: The Maw

Is this game Mawesome or just another average XBLA game?

Returning from a routine mission, a Galactic Bounty Hunter ship crash lands on a strange planet, leaving the captured Frank (our hero) and a tiny glowing blob in a cage labelled “THE DEADLIEST ORGANISM IN THE UNIVERSE” (known as Maw) as the only survivors. Aware of the risks, but concerned about travelling around alone, Frank hooks the strange blob to a plasma leash from the wreckage. Making their way towards the communication tower in the distance, they must escape from the bounty hunters out to cage them, as well as the unknown dangers of the new planet they are on…
The Maw is one of those interesting games. It doesn’t last long and when you’re finished with it, you won’t play it again…but for the brief time you do play it, you will enjoy it from start to finish. It’s a weird combination of gameplay that’s reminiscent of A Boy and his Blob, but manages to establish its own identity with Maw, a loveable blob that eats everything and gets bigger and bigger as you progress through the game.

You control Frank, but can guide Maw with a leash to things to eat or other things. When you eat certain creatures, Maw will adopt their traits like being able to breathe fire, shock items and enemies with electricity, float high and even be able to ram your way through a level. The mixture of all this is a good combination and keeps the game fresh and enjoyable. The object of the game is to simply eat enough for Maw to be able to pass through the obstacles ahead of you.

The friendship between Frank and Maw is great and grows as the game goes. The story is very basic with the odd cutscene, but there’s no dialogue other than a few noises. So there’s no explanation of why Maw doesn’t try and eat Frank or why they get along, but it doesn’t matter since it does seem to work.
The controls are very simple and do the job well. If there’s one problem with them, it’s when Maw becomes a Rhino-type character and it’s hard to get the right direction for him to ram, it’s a matter of luck based on my experience with it.

Achievements are easy; I have the full 200 already and got them within 4 hours. There is one hidden creature in each level to find and eat and they do ask that you get 100% in each level which requires you to eat everything in every level, it sounds hard but it’s not. The hardest achievement is only hard because it’s annoying, you must play the game at 6 specific times of the day…but you can tamper with the Xbox’s time zone if you want the achievement instantly…but it does require you to open a level, quit so it saves and then go back to the dashboard, change the time zone and repeat. It took me about 5 mins, but know some people have had problems getting it.
Presentation for The Maw is great, but simple. For an XBLA game, it does look really impressive and load times are very short, almost non-existent at times. The soundtrack fits the feel of the game well, but the voice of Maw can be annoying sometimes.

The Verdict

The Maw is a great game, but very short at just 4-5 hours. DLC is on the way which may extend that, but at 800 points it does seem steep. I enjoyed it till the end, but chances are I won’t play it again until the DLC emerges. The same will probably apply to you, so just be wary…you’ll enjoy it regardless though.