Overall Score 70%
One way or another, Uncle Miggles is definitely off the Christmas card list. He owes money to King Porco, who has (understandably enough) got rather annoyed that he can't pay up and has imprisoned him. Will any brave champion step forth to aid poor Uncle Miggles? No? Oh well - there's always his nephew Mulver. He's always fancied himself a bit of a hero, and here's a chance for him to prove it.
Mulver's task is to collect the three Yre crystals, scattered across the land - if he does this, his uncle is free to go. Sounds simple, yes? But you can probably guess the snag - these crystals are in highly dangerous places and protected by numerous enemies, traps and puzzles.
Your task is to guide Mulver across a series of 3D worlds, running and jumping between different floating islands to reach the exit point. A variety of enemies (such as thorns and sloths) stand in your way and there are plenty of obstacles, such as moving blocks, rotating bridges, and so on. If Mulver touches an enemy or falls off the world, you'll lose one of his three lives. Aside from reaching the exit, there are also a number of gold coins and gems scattered about the place - both lead to bonuses and some lead to hidden exits.
Controls consist of the arrow keys and the space bar, which control movement and jumping respectively. Don't try any Super Mario style jumping on enemies - they are deadly to the touch and Mulver must avoid them. The camera is, by default, always positioned behind Mulver and turns with him, but you can rotate the camera view with the mouse and zoom in and out with the scroll wheel.
Graphics are fairly minimal - lots of basic shapes and bright colours - and I was struck by the slightly bizarre arrow that indicates where Mulver will land when you jump. An indicator like this is a welcome addition to 3D platformers, in which it is difficult to determine distances, but why a coloured arrow? The normal choice would be a simple shadow, as indeed one sees beneath the game's gems, coins - and, indeed, everything else. Lighting and shading is fairly basic, though there are different terrains for the landscape, which adds a small level of variety. Everything animates, including a delightful "bounce" to Mulver's body when he jumps, which saves the game from becoming horribly static.
Sound is a more appealing prospect. A number of background tunes provide variety without intruding, and there's a range of suitable and simple sound effects for things like collecting coins. Monsters are largely silent, however. A lot of platformers gain charm from the range of background activity they offer but both graphics and sound in Mulver seem rather empty - there's little immersion, just islands of light and noise in an otherwise flat and lifeless void.
Mulver is quite successfully playable. The controls are simple, though beware of pressing too many keys at once - I've lost a few lives trying to run, jump and turn at the same time. The lack of any time limit makes this a quiet and thoughtful platformer - especially useful on the tighter stretches, where turning is a tricky activity - but this can also lose any sense of urgency. There is no need to collect all the coins and gems unless you seek to conquer every level completely - if you're getting stuck, skip ahead to the next level. The turning bridge blocks are irritating and occasionally fatal but do give you some warning of when they are about to move.
However, I don't feel any pull to keep playing. There are lives, but the ability to play any level reached and the way your score is level based makes them almost pointless - if you die, you can just try again. More irritating, there are no save points - if you lose a life, you continue from the beginning of the level (though all the gems and coins you have collected so far remain collected). New enemies and obstacles appear as you progress but I didn't feel any real progression.
Mulver is not a bad game by any stretch - it simply lacks depth. I don't get any sense of Mulver's world so much as a collection of platforms and coins - where's the background? Where's the texture? Where's the detail? Even the deadly drop is a featureless abyss. As a first outing, Mulver is promising - but it will need to work harder to garner and maintain interest.
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