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 Steam­laka/

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.

Get stoned in the Mex­i­can desert.

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