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CONSOLE: PC DEVELOPER: Hothead Games PUBLISHER: Microsoft
RELEASE DATE (NA): March 9, 2009 GENRE: Action-Adventure
// review by Meow

Alien Boy and his Blob.

In the later 2000s shortly after the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 hit the scene, indie game studios started to shine with notable works able to be digitally downloaded for budget prices, paving the way for the digital future that times appeared to have been going toward. Among these is the title "The Maw", an odd little collect-a-thon with a little puzzle solving and a tiny bit of platforming.

The Maw starts us out witnessing some alien kid being hauled into a room filled with crates of all sorts of odd creatures and thrown into a cage of his own. The game has no text explaining how things got here, and there is no text afterwards. The game is all done in pantomime and adorable squeaks and grunts. Shortly after being hurled into this container, the kid spots an odd purple blob thing with teeth and a single eye across the way from him. Instantly, they take a liking to each other. And then the ship they're on crashes, stranding this duo on an alien world filled with all sorts o' cute and crazy critters. The duo proceed through each stage with Maw, the purple blob, eating the local fauna to grow larger and sometimes gain powers like laser vision, and the kid leading Maw through to help him clear obstacles and make their way to the stronghold of force that captured the two of them in the first place.


Oo-ma-MAW-MAW-pa-pa-oo-ma-MAW-MAW.

Throughout the stages, you can "collect" various animals that spawn by feeding them to Maw, with only a certain amount needed to make Maw big enough to exit the level, and the game will tell you when that's the case. There isn't much of a reason to collect them all that I've seen beyond just getting a little gold medal for the level, so there's no locked content behind that. There's also a special collectable gross bug thing that I forget the name of, I think it's... Snuffle? They also get you a little medal and a silly animation of Maw really enjoying eating it. Beyond that, you try to find where animals hide, try to find out how and where to use the powers that Maw obtains, and make your way onwards. There are a few "deleted scene" levels aka DLC levels, and they're automatically gone to where they were intended to be in the game, but you can just choose to skip them if you so desire. They don't add anything huge to the game, but they are a couple more levels, including the odd Speeder Lane level which is the only level you can die in. But don't worry, there's no penalty for it, it just sets you back at a checkpoint, and they're plentiful and anything you've collected stays collected. Even the stage boss starts you off right where you left off with it.

The game has music that changes to the situation, such as being quiet and calm ambience when nothing's really happening, picking up when shenanigans go down, and even having more instrumentation added when Maw is doing something with powers he obtains. I found it a rather nice experience.

The game frequently goes on sale for dirt cheap (like, 99 cents for the whole game, all dlc included), and I can recommend it. I think you can still nab the title on 360 and PS3's digital store, and it's also available on Steam. It took me only 3 hours to beat the thing 100%, save for 2 achievements, one that requires me to shock 50 things which is just a waste of time, and another that requires you to play the game at six different times of day which is also a waste of time, but the game was still fun. Give it a whirl if you feel so inclined.


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