Title: Marvin’s Mittens
Platform: Microsoft Windows
Genre: 2D Adventure/Platformer
Rating: Everyone (10+)
Price: $4.99 USD (via Desura)
Release Date: December 10, 2012
In these last couple of years, indie games have apparently become all the rage. Some of these games are exceptionally good, others are decent enough, and some are just downright terrible. Platforms such as Steam, Desura, or simple self-publishing have made it so that everyone who has the time and dedication to see their visions become reality can do just that.
Recently, I was passed along a copy of Marvin’s Mittens for the PC. Being that I was very busy at the time, I ended up putting it off so that I could get some other things done. What a mistake that proved to be! When I finally sat down and made a point of playing the game, I was glued to my computer screen. What I thought would be a simple, pretty little platforming title turned into something so much more than that.
The story of the game revolves around a young boy named Marvin who, while working on making a snowman, has one of his mittens stolen by some sort of devious (or playful?) creature. At first, Marvin considers not worrying about it and simply going home to fetch another, yet his orphaned mitten seems to come to life for a moment and wills him to seek out its partner. And thus, Marvin sets out and explores the areas around the large lake near his home, hoping to find his glove while helping others who need him.
At first, the gameplay of Marvin’s Mittens is cheerily reminiscent of another classic platformer series – Dizzy. The controls are so incredibly simple: Marvin can either move left or right or he can jump. That’s it. Yet, that’s really all he needs to be able to do in his world. Sometimes, he will encounter objects he can interact with (signs to read, for example, or someone to talk to), but otherwise the meat of the experience lies in exploring the world around him and figuring out how to get to hard-to-reach places. All of this quickly changes, though, when he reaches the Elf Camp and learns that the Elves there have also had their mittens stolen. As it turns out, this mitten-thievery happens once every thirteen years, according to Elvish lore, and Marvin promises to not only find his own mitten, but to find all of theirs. Perhaps through a combination of his determination and a bit of Elven magic, Marvin’s mitten becomes imbued with a magical power that allows him to soar through the air.
This, in fact, is where the game really begins to pick up. Once Marvin’s mitten becomes magically-charged, magical snowflakes can be found all around the explorable areas. The map the player can access will also show a total number of snowflakes that can be found in each area. The goal becomes finding all the snowflakes in any given area, and as Marvin collects more and more of them, he is able to jump/soar higher and longer, thus allowing him to reach areas he could not reach before and, in turn, to collect more snowflakes that he may not have been able to get. In a way, this makes the game more like a light-hearted Metroidvania-style game, whereby you need to revisit areas constantly in the hopes of collecting snowflakes that you couldn’t get before or unlocking paths to new areas that were unable to be reached.
Not long after Marvin gets his magic mitten powers, you will have the ability to jump up into a tree and retrieve a sled that is up there for some reason. The sled is another unique item, because Marvin can use it on particularly steep slopes to speed up his travel times and also, through clever jumping, reach areas that aren’t possible to get to otherwise.
A sense of urgency is created by the fact that, as Marvin is still a young boy, he cannot be out once the sun sets. At the beginning of each day, players will notice that the sun is beginning to rise. The longer they are out exploring, they will notice the sun making its journey across the sky until sunset is imminent, followed by the music picking up its tempo to alert you that time is running out. Finally, Marvin’s mother will call to him, summoning him back home and thus letting him start from his home upon the next day. Ultimately, what this does is create the need for careful time-management in each of Marvin’s outings. It also facilitates the need for finding shortcuts.
Thankfully, the presence of Elves in Marvin’s world (which does seem to be Earth, although there are Elves and other magical things to be found) works to his benefit. Not only can they give Marvin a rejuvenating cup of hot chocolate, but they can save the player’s game at will, tell them a story from the Elvish Encyclopedia (which often proves useful to figuring out what to do next), and some Elves Marvin encounters will be able to dig tunnels that connect one area to another. In fact, these tunnels are quite crucial to saving time, because Marvin can quickly ride his sled from his house, through the woods, and through a series of tunnels to quickly get to the zones he needs to visit.
There seem to be a couple exceptions given where time is concerned when it comes to being deep underground. When Marvin is visiting the Snow Elf City and surrounding areas, perhaps time passes differently or Marvin is simply out of earshot of his mother. It’s also possible this was done because these areas take a little more time to get to and aren’t connected by the tunnel system, so it allows you to explore them more freely without having to worry about your time running out.
One neat thing that I found pleasantly surprising about the game is that Marvin will encounter random animals during his outings. If he sneaks up on them carefully, he will be prompted with the ability to make a quick sketch of them for his sketchbook. Each animal that he manages to sketch will also show up at his house, and results in something fun for the player to work on collecting as they run around the game’s world.
The graphics in Marvin’s Mittens are quite amazing. Each area you explore is hand-drawn with exceptional detail, and the artists at Breakfall have managed to create a living, breathing world that plays wonderfully on the imaginations of children and adults alike. Add to this the fact that the game has a pleasant original soundtrack that really brings the world to life, and you’ve got an experience that will really be fun for gamers of all tastes and walks of life to enjoy.
My only minor complaint about the game was that you can only have one save file at a time, so if you want to play the game again, you will have to overwrite your progress. However, this might be easily forgiven, because the game isn’t the longest game in the world (which is a shame, really!) and that there are probably ways a modder (or the developers themselves) could get around this and allow you to do so.
So, at the end of the day, I think Marvin’s Mittens is a game that I will recommend to all of my friends. It’s a wonderful game, a truly amazing deal for its asking price, and a game I can see becoming a timeless classic. Even in the summer months, it will be great to play a game like this and just mentally cool off!
It’s my hope that Breakfall gives us another adventure with Marvin or at least something equally as original and fun!
FINAL SCORE: 98% (A+)
“A game that should easily prove to be a timeless classic!”
This article was originally written for and used with permission by Anjel Syndicate.
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