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COMPLETE: Marvin's Mittens

July 2nd, 2017 (03:21 pm)

Hi, can you still tell I'm still on my "short, light, and fluffy indie game" kick after recovering from the unexpected marathon that was the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers postgame? This should be the last one before I work my way back to the big stuff, but we'll see.

It was in an IndieGala bundle recently and it just looked too cute not to try, and I'm glad I did! It was indeed very cute and charming.

I've long had a complicated history with games like Seiklus and Endless Ocean. They promise gentle stress-free exploration, no combat or anything, just explore around and have fun. On paper, that sounds like something that really should appeal to me. It's at least interesting as a game concept, and I really want it to work out and have fun with it. In practice, though, neither Seiklus nor Endless Ocean particularly did it for me. The former is easy to get lost and, well, kind of boring honestly, and the latter starts out strong but is a bit too long, wears out its welcome, and kind of runs out of things to do. Which is a shame, because I really want to like these kinds of games!

Enter Marvin's Mittens, which at best looked like it could finally be what I was looking for, and at worst was like a couple dollars as part of a bundle so it's not like I'd really be out anything if it was another failure. The trailer looked very promising, like a sort of Seiklus-alike but with a "child playing in the snow" theme.



You play as Marvin, a cute little overly-bundled up kid with suspiciously good voice acting. (Seriously, did they find an actually-good actual-child actor for this? Or is that just the best impression of one I've ever heard?) One day, while playing in the snow, a cute but fast little blur of a fuzzy thing steals one of his mittens. In the nearby elf village (this game plays fast and loose with the laws of realism) the elves reveal that they, too, have had their mittens stolen, and give Marvin the special power of that sort of double-jump-hover-thing you see in the trailer, where the second jump has him float upwards. The kind of height he gets on that depends directly on how many snowflakes he's collected; it barely improves his mobility at all at first, but the kid can basically fly by the time you get them all.

There is a daily time limit, where eventually the sun goes down and the voice of Marvin's mom calls out that it's time to come home, at which point the day is over and the game cuts back to Marvin's home. It autosaves and continues over a screen of Marvin sleeping in bed with a gentle lullaby playing, complete with a dream thought bubble cycling through images of things he's seen so far on his adventure like an early Windows screensaver. Then Marvin sets out again from his home the next day. Progress is made by expanding your range and how far you can go before it's time to head home, which you accomplish mostly by Etrian Odyssey-like shortcuts that have to be opened from the other side first. On day 1, I barely made it to the Elf Village before mom called me home. By day 3, after collecting just enough snowflakes to boost my jump, retrieving my sled for quicker downhill travel, and opening a well-placed shortcut tunnel, I could get there in about fifteen seconds, and of course then I had the rest of the day to keep exploring from there.

This game was everything I wanted it to be, and I was delighted with it from start to finish. The graphics are adorable, the music is so cozy that I might put the soundtrack on next time my anxiety issues start acting up, and the game is just the right length (about three hours) to feel like something "real" and not some Flash game or something while still being light and breezy. The only "difficulty" comes from trying to find everything (1,000 snowflakes total split up over about 30-50 per room on average, plus 11 animals you can sketch and get a picture of if you walk up slowly enough to not scare them away) and even those are perfectly balanced--just barely hidden enough that I felt clever and like an explorer for finding them all, but nowhere even close to FAQ-requiring "where the fuck is the last bullshit snowflake" frustration. Basically, if you're even moderately thorough then you'll be fine.

I'm still a little confused about this genre, because truth be told, I don't know why I loved this game after hating Seiklus. Marvin's Mittens has a gentle and loving aesthetic, far better graphics and sound, and the daily reset gives you a nice overall feeling of progression, I guess, but is that really what was holding Seiklus back? Or was it that Seiklus was a little too labyrinthine and Marvin's Mittens felt easier to me? Or something else entirely? I don't know.

But I do know that I adored Marvin's Mittens and I highly recommend it.

This is a cross-posted entry that originated from http://kjorteo.dreamwidth.org/395237.html.