When I was growing up, I didn’t have the pleasure of living in an area which saw decent snow fall. I’ve never ridden a sled downhill. However I like to think that if I had, my experience would be akin to that of Marvin in Marvin’s Mittens. Developed by Breakfall, Marvin’s Mittens is a delightful 2D platformer that focuses on exploration. This is a story of a young boy searching for stolen mittens in a snow-covered landscape.
Unlike most games, Marvin’s Mittens does not stick to the traditional gameplay model of pitting the player against obstacles designed to punish failure. Breakfall were not afraid to do away with enemies which are often only included to hinder player progress, regardless of how little sense they make in a story. Likewise, there are no long falls to certain death. The game-world provided in Marvin’s Mittens is one that can be enjoyed in complete safety. The worst that will happen is that a series of jumps from platform to platform will need to be repeated.
At the start of Marvin’s Mittens, most areas will be inaccessible. Marvin’s jump is not high enough to reach many of the platforms even in the starting area. This changes once Marvin meets some elves, who grant him the ability to fly by collecting snowflakes and then holding the jump button down for an extended time. It is here that the gameplay maintains a challenge. Snowflakes are often placed just out of reach, so the player will need to find more accessible ones to collect first. Even then, Marvin’s flying can make aiming for snowflakes a little tricky.
However, flying, like the platforming, is rarely frustrating. While I never felt that pixel perfect precision was required to reach snowflakes, there was one platforming section near the end of the game which did require precise aim and some timing. Although an alternate path did appear to exist to avoid this for those who had collected enough snowflakes. Missing a platform rarely means a long drop or the need to redo an extended sequence of jumps. I found the generally relaxed feel of Marvin’s Mittens in tune with idea that this is a child’s adventure.
The laid back vibe is further reinforced with the hand-drawn style graphics used to beautifully render Marvin’s world. Other little touches further help bring this to life. For example, day gradually fades to night, and nearby stages are often displayed in the background. There is also wildlife to be encountered along the way. Manage to get close enough without scaring them, and Marvin will add a drawing of the animal in his sketchbook. This is done by pressing the action button while standing in the right position. Unfortunately, this is where there is a sense of pixel perfect precision being required. Miss the exact spot, which is all to easy to do, and the animal will run away; only returning when you leave and re-enter the stage.
Being a child, Marvin cannot simply roam the landscape for as long as he wants. Approximately every 9 minutes, the day will end with a call from Marvin’s mother to come home. This cutscene, where Marvin is shown soundly sleeping with his mother watching over him, is the main transition where the game can be saved (saving is also possible by getting a drink from one of the elves). Accompanied by some truly lovely music, I am reminded of saving in Ico; another game where I could just stay on the save screen all day listening to the music.
Once located, Marvin can also use his sled to travel across stages at a far faster speed than he can walk, as long as there is a steep enough slope. Yet even with the sled, reaching the later stages before day’s end is simply not possible. Thankfully, one of the elves Marvin meets is able to open up shortcuts . In order to do this, Marvin must first find the shortcut’s exit point, then locate and lead the elf to it. Each shortcut is connected to the preceding one, allowing Marvin to travel through all of them at great speed.
The game-world is also populated with a variety of interesting locations, such as a frozen pirate ship, and an underground village. Some of these locations give Marvin the opportunity to try other methods of travel. For example, there is a stage that features an excavator. While this is enjoyable the first couple of times, as the pace feels slower than Marvin’s normal speed, it can feel at odds with the limited time allowed in a day. But like most areas, this can later be avoided by using the shortcuts.
There were several times where I felt disappointed at having discovered a new location, only for the day to end. But there’s something cute about the way Marvin also voices this disappointment, often with a cry of “Aww” or “Alright, mum”. Likewise, he expresses his happiness on collecting a new snowflake or hitting a jump on his sled. And when he walks for too long without stopping, he also starts to sound a little out of breath. All of this makes Marvin an enjoyable character to play.
Mavin’s Mittens is not a perfect game though. It lacks an option mode and only allows the toggling of playing in a window or in fullscreen by pressing F11. I ended up playing in a window at the only resolution available. Due to the way my monitor does not stretch resolutions to fit the screen, even at fullscreen, I was still playing at the same resolution. While playing with the keyboard is possible, there is no way to redefine keys and the default layout was uncomfortable for me, thus I played using a 360 controller.
This too has its problems though. There is a definite over use vibration when Marvin is on his sled. This is further compounded as it continues while new stages are loading. After a number of connected shortcuts have been opened, this can result in rather long periods of constant vibration. This made me wish I could toggle the use of vibration off. There is also the odd graphical hitch where sprites are not lined up correctly. This most noticeable occurs at the start of excavator stage. Even with these few annoyances, I found Marvin’s Mittens to be a lovely game.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
There’s no arguing that Mavin’s Mittens is very short. Yet it is beautifully presented, accompanied by a gorgeous soundtrack, and filled with more charm than the total amount of snowflakes found in the game. Those who enjoy exploration are bound to want to discover as much as they can, even after completing the game. If you’re looking for a magical winter adventure without having to freeze outside, Marvin’s Mittens is well worth the low asking price.