Release Date: December 10
At first brush, Marvin’s Mittens might sound like yet another indie platformer, albeit one with delightful artwork. You double jump your young protagonist across a sea of ledges and platforms, grabbing the various collectables strewn across the landscape.
In terms of games mechanics, there’s really nothing new here that hasn’t been done a literal thousand times before. But Marvin’s Mittens proves that wonderful and new things can still be done with well-used forms. Marvin’s Mittens allows the player to enter a children’s storybook, exploring the world through the imaginative eyes of the young. Marvin starts out hoping from tree branch to snow covered tree branch, but soon he’s meeting elves, exploring mountain tops and underground caverns, even floating into the clouds on strong winter updrafts. I’ll refrain from spoiling with details, as the great fun in Marvin’s Mittens is the discovery of new, whimsical areas. One never knows what’s down that hole or just over that mountain. It could be the kingdom of the elves, it could be a chance to make a magical snow fort, it could be a hot air balloon…
Drop in on an elf friend for a cup of hot cocoa, but it’s not a power-up. It’s just cocoa
Or it could be Mom telling you it’s time to come home, which does provide a limit to how much adventuring can be done. It’s a cute mechanic, and totally fits the character of the game. And that’s the other lovely thing about Marvin’s Mittens.
The game might not break new ground with game mechanics, but it puts its own elegant spin on things. First off, Marvin can’t die. Jump off the top of the tallest cliff, and he’ll wave his arms about, but won’t look a smidge fussed about it. And why should he? He doesn’t even so much as grunt when he lands. Drop in on an elf friend for a cup of hot cocoa, but it’s not a power-up. It’s just cocoa (although it’s a good time to read the Elfcyclopedia for hints). Marvin is supposed to collect snowflakes, but there’s no indication of how many he’s collected, much less how many there are left to go. In short, all the traditional in game penalties and feedback are absent in Marvin’s Mittens.
This is a wonderful thing. Because absent of a “score”, Marvin’s Mittens falls back on being simply enjoyable. The real goal is to see new things and go farther abroad each day. As Marvin collects more and more snowflakes, he can jump higher and reach new places to explore. Elf friends dig tunnels for him so he can zip further afield in his trusty sled. He’s only got so much time before Mom tells him it’s time to go back inside, after all! More than once, both Marvin and I said “Awwwww….” at the same time. But again, that’s about as put out as the little tyke gets in this game.
Per the title, Marvin is indeed on a quest to find his lost mitten. And he probably will, although anyone expecting a huge boss fight at the end really hasn’t gotten into the spirit of the game. A compulsive gamer might be able to power through the game in the course of a long evening, but really, it’s best to played in short spurts, like a chapter read before bedtime. There’s a fair amount of content to explore, and it’s best done leisurely. Those mittens can wait.
I haven’t said a word about the aesthetics, which are top notch. The artwork is self-evidently wonderful, but just as much thought went into the soundtrack, which changes with each new area and activity. From the peppy sled riding tune to peaceful ambient electronica reminiscent of Kitaro, the sounds capture the mood of the game perfectly. I’d download it if I could, it’s just the right sort of thing to listen to on a chilly evening with a cup of cocoa in hand and a dog curled up at your feet.
Marvin’s Mittens Review Score 8.5
Why so high? Good, cheerful, heart-warming fun. Artwork on par with the best children’s books. Surprising amount of explorable content for an indie game in this price range. Good game for young children, but fun for adults, too.
Why so low? The first few forays are somewhat repetitive. Challenge level is almost non-existent, which is more a feature than a bug, but will put off some. There are occasional moments where Marvin is just a bit too perfectly cute. What, no snowballs?