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Review: Mulaka

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A fun twist on an old formula

Mulaka is a 3D adventure game with a story based around the culture of the Tarahumara people who hail from Northern Mexico. Its influence from genre mainstays, such as Ocarina of Time and Okami, is felt in every inch of its presentation, but it does just enough differently to make itself stand out.

We follow a travelling warrior who must prove his worth to several deities, which are sprinkled across the world map, in order to recruit their help in defeating an evil force that wants to destroy all life and start over. Details are kept pretty vague, but it mostly works. 

Mulaka (PC, PS4, Switch [reviewed], Xbox One)
Developer: Lienzo
Publisher: Lienzo
Released: February 27, 2018 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)/March 1, 2018 (Switch)
MSRP: $19.99 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)/$19.98 (Switch)

The majority of the characters you meet are somewhat disposable, but they’re really just meant as plot devices, and some of them even threw in a few lines that got a chuckle out of me. The one thing that I really appreciated about this whole experience, above all else, is that it didn’t try to drown me in historical context. Lienzo, the developers, understand the importance of just having a bit of fun.

There are artifacts to collect and backgrounds given for each enemy, but it doesn't feel forced. The Tarahumara culture and its stories are interesting, but they never distract from the fact that you’re playing a video game. If you don’t care even the slightest about the story, you can easily ignore it completely. It’s just an added, optional, layer of depth for those who embrace it.

The basic gameplay elements are about what you’d expect. You’ve got a light and heavy attack, jump, a spear throw, and various other abilities which you acquire across your journey. The combat sections are slightly too easy, but there’s just enough challenge to keep it from becoming straight up boring. It’s worth noting, however, that I didn’t die a single time during my playthrough. As of right now, there’s only one default difficulty setting, and it left me a bit wanting. Mulaka's puzzles are far from brain busters either, but there’s something extremely pleasant about the way they break up gameplay. Sure, they only take a few moments to solve, but it still always felt welcome and fun. 

Boss fights start out fairly small scale but eventually spiral into some epic throwdowns later in the game. With each one tackled, you’ll gain access to a new ability. While these powers are largely meant for solving environmental puzzles, they also help swing the tide of battle in your favor if used correctly. Each fight follows the familiar structure of learning the enemy patterns, waiting for the moment to strike, and then exploiting their weakness. Rinse and repeat. 

It starts to get interesting when you factor in the various smaller enemies, each with their own unique attack patterns and weaknesses. It creates just enough tension to keep the player invested. It's extremely satisfying to take them all out, one at a time, while simultaneously whittling away at the larger foe. This dynamic builds and escalates as you continue, but it never fully reached that sweet spot of difficulty I crave. 

Luckily, they make up for any shortcomings in challenge with a fantastic flair for presentation. The music and art style help create a place that's truly worth visiting. They start out fairly plain Jane, but each new location you visit makes the others look trivial in comparison. There's a wonderful expanding sense of scale throughout.

Earlier portions may have left a bit to be desired in their simplicity, but the last few worlds are expertly realized. Everything you've learned must be utilized to see your journey through. By the time the credits were rolling, I really wished it didn’t have to end. There’s a weird sense of comfort that Mulaka exudes, which isn’t currently offered by any other games on the Nintendo Switch. 

For anyone looking to scratch that nagging Okami itch, even if it never quite reaches the same heights, you’re going to have a good time here. It may feel a tad familiar, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s just great to lose yourself in a goofy world for a bit. 

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Mulaka reviewed by Kevin Mersereau

8

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
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Kevin Mersereau
Kevin MersereauContributor   gamer profile

I like video games, music, comics, and corgis a whole lot. Pretty much everything I do in my free time revolves around these four things... more + disclosures


 


 


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