By – Callan MacKinlay
Marvin’s Mittens is a very simple, short little game that will make you say “awww” a lot more than you are used to. While I can’t say that it breaks any new grounds, Marvin’s Mittens is a well-executed platformer that comes at a pretty low price. In the game, you play as a little boy named Marvin who goes out to play in the snow only to have one of his mittens taken away from him by a bird. Suitably disgruntled, Marvin sets out on a quest to murder the bird and return home with his mitten. Just kidding. In actual fact, this game is not in any way violent. As you explore the snow-covered world, you collect snowflakes which enhance Marvin’s ability to jump the longer you hold down the button. You also meet up with elves (Santa elves, not Tolkein elves) that help you in your quest.
The majority of the game is simple platforming where you jump around trying to collect snowflakes that boost your ability to double-jump; an ability given to you by the magical elves. Once you have collected enough snowflakes, you can jump high enough to get ahold of your sled, which allows you to traverse the landscape more quickly, provided you have opened up the pathways using little mining elves. As you collect more and more snowflakes, the height of your jump gets to almost astronomical proportions, allowing you to get to hard-to-reach areas to grab the last snowflakes you may have missed on your initial pass. You also meet pretty little animals during your travels that you can sketch into your sketchbook. And once you have sketched an animal, it populates the backyard of your home. All of these elements are well-crafted and control flawlessly. Using only the keyboard, the game gives you all the options you need to play. Also, I never once encountered a bug, something that has occurred rather often in my experiences with indie games.
The game does a nice job of toying with the idea of whether or not the world you are exploring actually exists as Marvin sees it, or if it is in fact, a Calvin & Hobbes-esque imaginary land. As you progress through the world, periodically Marvin’s mother calls him home for dinner and eventually bedtime. As Marvin sleeps, a big thought bubble appears above his head showing some of the things he has experienced on his adventures throughout the day. This periodical game stoppage is a fantastic idea for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it helps to establish the legitimacy of the game world. No kid can go out and play for days on end, so the fact that your mother calls you home to eat dinner and sleep on your winter vacation makes total sense. Secondly, I don’t know about you, but many a time I have played a game for much longer than I meant to and gone to bed a bit disgruntled about it. Marvin’s Mittens has created a novel way to ensure that people who suffer from this same affliction have a convenient way out. In fact, the only time that the game saves is when Marvin sleeps, so stopping your play at this time is logical.
The world that you explore is a veritable winter wonderland infused with magical elements. Its art style has that bright look you experience when an area is covered with snow. Marvin’s Mittens has a beautifully drawn world that manages to provide a decent amount of variety even though the landscape is largely similar. With a few large mountains to climb and underground areas to explore, the game is large enough to provide a few hours of entertainment. You also get to visit an elf village deep underground and a cloud area up in the skies. There are also hidden areas like a frozen pirate ship underneath a frozen lake.
Is It Worth Your Money?
All of these whimsical places enhance the feeling that you are experiencing the wonderful imagination of a child instead of an actual place. While I won’t spoil the end, it is probably the cutest climax to a game that I have seen in years, and I had to show my wife just to watch her expression. Overall, Marvin’s Mittens is the perfect combination of short and sweet. It is an adorable adventure that, while not particularly innovative, is a lot more fun than it should be. And, at under five bucks, it is in the appropriate price range for someone who wants a cheap bit of fun for a few hours.