Video review to follow shortly
Mulaka follows the journey of a Sukurúame – a Tarahumara shaman tasked with seeking out the demigods of the Sierra to seek their aid against an evil which is spreading across the land and threatens to destroy its inhabitants.
This story pulls directly from the lore of the Tarahumara and takes place over a series of regions. Each region is inhabited by one of the demigods and a big bad boss to take on.
In this way it follows a pattern we are very used to giving us some comfortable footing, the story is told in chunks between these regions and in snippets from conversing with both the demigods and the worlds inhabitants.
Whilst I found the difference in culture and its feel fascinating the story is not particularly demanding and our character’s journey felt like optional insight with a bit of a tale thrown in.
Cutscenes are voice acted and though I could not understand what was being said it added an air of mystery and urgency to the story telling.
Visuals & Performance
Mulaka’s main game takes place in a 3D low-poly style that is very vibrant and is based very closely on the real region.
The colours are wonderful and you can see tribal influences everywhere from the paintings and patterns to the people you bump into. The low definition of graphics remind me of the first attempt at 3D graphics in games back in the SNES days and whilst I can see the inspiration used from the Tarahumara art I personally am not a fan and found myself wishing for some higher levels of detail.
Whats more I found movement of your character and others looked off and there are noticeable areas where characters slightly fall through floors or surfaces. These are not major gripes but I did notice them.
Sadly in my playthrough I experienced a few full crashes and some slowdown at times, to give them credit Lienzo are aware of these issues and have put in fixes to the respective platforms – sadly that means for us Switch owners its not likely to get fixed until the end of March though we are assured these issues have been completely rectified.
The game kicks off with a small tutorial covering movement and combat which are simple, you move around the 3D environment and fend off enemies with a light and a heavy attack as well as the ability to thrown your spear at enemies plus a handy dodge and a jump button.
As you progress you will uncover a few more abilities that use the D-Pad including a heal and a bomb as well as transformations granted by the spirit gods that let you reach new places along your journey.
Interestingly the Tarahumara are renowned for their incredible running abilities and this is reflected in the gameplay as you are able to sprint indefinitely, a nice touch.
A slow start
As you progress through the first region the pacing is quite slow, a symptom of a large map with few enemies perhaps but after such a great intro, some awesome music and decent controls I found the first chunk of time rather flat.
The basic premise of progress is to find 3 stones which are found across the region through combat, some small puzzles or by exploration. You have the ability to see things in the spirit world by using a magic bar which lets you see enemies in a different light as well as help guide you towards targets acting as your map.
Once you gather these 3 stones you open up an area where you will be faced by a big, nasty boss that wants to take you down and once you defeat them you will be able to face the demigods and gain their blessing.
Onwards and upwards
The game follows this pattern across its regions and after the first one things started to warm up.
Each region looks and feels different ranging from desert to more lush mountainous zones with different enemies scattered throughout these lands.
Whilst the gameplay doesn’t change, the second region whilst still large feels like a better layout. Equally, battles never reach true difficulty but the mantis mobs in this region provide a sterner challenge and you will need to mix up your light, heavy and spear throwing to take down the different types of mob.
The game uses some basic puzzles to break up combat but these are not difficult enough which is a wasted opportunity. There is a small skill tree that improves certain traits or attacks which is a welcome feature and adds some choice to how you progress.
As you get further you will face some huge bosses that whilst not very tough, are awesome looking.
On the move
On the move I found Mulaka much more stable with a slightly lower resolution and a solid frame rate, the game looks great on the smaller screen and its an enjoyable way to play this game.
Mulaka is in my opinion a single play through kind of game. There are many different enemies to face, artefacts to find and the game is not small with large worlds to explore so you will find some value for your hard earned cash at $19.99 in the US and £15.99 in the UK.
That said if you are buying the game before the patch your experience will be hampered by some performance issues.