As a child, snowfalls used to mean a lot more to me. Back then, they brought days off from school, sled rides, and messing about in my yard. While these days snow only makes me worry about how troublesome my daily commute will be, I still have faint memories of the joy it used to bring. And Marvin’s Mittens, an indie platformer from Breakfall Games, does a marvellous job of both rekindling that feeling and providing a simple but very fun and beautiful experience on its own.
The brief intro shows the titular Marvin playing in the snowy woodlands near his home, only to have a mysterious figure make off with one of his mittens. The child gives chase, and the player immediately takes control. It’s a simple plot told with minimal dialog, but it’s also lighthearted in an appealing way, and it doesn’t take long to realize that this game is more about exploring and having a good time than delivering constant cutscenes and exposition.
The first few minutes of the game might give players the impression that its sidescrolling platforming will be both basic and limited, as Marvin starts out with a lacklustre jump ability. However, it doesn’t take long until he discovers a trio of woodland elves who have also had their mittens stolen, and after offering to help them out, what is probably the game’s most unique mechanic becomes available.
Throughout each environment, numerous snowflakes are scattered for Marvin to collect, akin to Mario’s coins or Sonic’s rings. The difference here is that, since there aren’t any enemies or hazards to make you lose health or lives, the hundreds of snowflakes serve a different purpose. The elves grant Marvin a double jump ability, and as he gradually collects more snowflakes, the maximum height of his second jump gets incrementally higher to the point where he can practically soar.
Considering that the bulk of Marvin’s Mittens revolves only around exploring each location and collecting snowflakes, it might be easy to be scared off by such a basic-sounding premise. Despite this, the game actually does succeed at delivering a fun and immersive experience. Observing the progress you’ll make in powering up Marvin’s double jump can be very gratifying, especially when you return to a previously explored area and discover a part of it that you wouldn’t have been able to reach before.
The controls also feel rather tight and polished, and the lack of peril helps to eliminate potential frustration. In a cute touch, the only thing resembling a power-up or item is a sled Marvin obtains later on, which he can pull out with the press of a button to slide down inclines faster. It’s not always useful, but the parts that it’s made for definitely help add to the game’s winter-heavy atmosphere.
The other big part of what makes this game work is its presentation. The featured characters and environments are completely hand-drawn, and while they don’t look as meticulously detailed as those found in Rayman Legends, there’s still a lot of appeal and wonder to be found. Other small-but-satisfying elements, like layers of occasional falling snowflakes, also add to the game’s winter wonderland.
One last aspect worth noting is the way the game handles saving progress, as well as a time limit of sorts. Each snowy day eventually turns into a snowy night, and after a certain point, Marvin will be called inside by his mother, forcing players to save their progress before heading outside the next morning. It’s a cute touch in some ways, but the downside is that players still have to manually head back to their last location, as I couldn’t find any fast travel option. The game makes this a bit easier to deal with by allowing Marvin to lead one of the elves to blocked areas that can open up shortcuts, but it’s still a bit of a complaint.
Despite that issue, Marvin’s Mittens won me over. If you’re looking for something deep and challenging then this game won’t be for you, but those who can find entertainment in a title possessing both great atmosphere and relaxing gameplay should give it a shot. It’s one of those rare games that I’d say is not only perfectly suited for younger gamers, but for the young at heart as well.
This review is based on the PC exclusive, which was provided to us.
Fundamentally simple, but also immensely charming and accessible, Marvin's Mittens is a very enjoyable title for platformer fans.