One letter away from being rude
first and foremost a game, the anthropology lessons are happy to sit in the background
Developer Lienzo • P ublisher Lienzo • P rice $ 19.99 • A vAilAble At Steam www.lienzo.mx/mulaka/
Afew years back we reviewed an interesting but ultimately flawed game called Never Alone. Whilst the mechanics in the game were lacking, the fact that Never Alone told stories from Native Alaskans still made it a fascinating and important game, giving an ancient culture a new way to pass on their stories. Mulaka has a similar pedigree, telling the stories and myths of the Tarahumara people of Northwest Mexico, but unlike Never Alone, it’s also a fun and rewarding game that could stand on its own even without the fascinating culture behind it.
Players take the role of Sukuruame, a warrior and shaman who must travel the land to fight against an evil force of corruption. In order to halt the force, Sukuruame must prove his worth to the gods by defeating great beasts, solving puzzles and generally having a rather good time. While each monster you defeat has a bio, and many of the fairly nondescript characters Sukuruame meets during his travels have stories from Tarahumara folklore to tell, the history and culture of the game are but an interesting layer to the game rather than the main thrust. Mulaka is first and foremost a game, with the anthropology lesson always present but happy to sit in the background.
Initially armed with nothing but a spear and a knowledge of healing plants, Sukuruame starts as a straightforward, nimble warrior. Anyone who has played an action adventure game in the vein of Zelda, Okami, Dark Cloud II or Beyond Good and Evil will be instantly familiar with the general flow of battle. He has a light and heavy attack, a hugely damaging finisher after stringing together enough attacks and a dodge. He can also throw his spear but this is more useful in solving environmental puzzles than the majority of battles. Later in the game, Sukuruame learns more skills from downed bosses of gods, but the general flow of the game remains largely the same - explore an area, look for hidden items or artefacts needed to solve environmental puzzles or access new areas, defeat monsters and ultimately confront a boss. It’s refreshingly straightforward.
Boss fights start out simply with simple patterns to memorise when it comes to attacks, but as the adventure progresses, so does the scale and scope of the boss battles. Open world battles can be just as interesting, as each enemy, from a tiny scorpion to poisonous frogs, skull crab things, mantis men and more all have their own attack patterns to contend with. Encounters with multiple enemy types at once can be furious and fun affairs, though the lack of a lock-on feature can make them rather frustrating as well at times.
The simple but gorgeous presentation of Mulaka works fantastically, not only to give life to a foreign and ancient culture, but also to twinge the nostalgia nerve for oldschool action adventure games. It’s not perfect - the movement can sometimes feel a little floaty, and the lack of a lockon in combat can cause frustration, but for $20, Mulaka is a fine way to spend some time.