Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Mulaka (PS4) Review

Mulaka is a third-person action adventure game based on the actual mythology of the Tarahumara people in Mexico.  It does cover a few terms, basics, and deities during the course of the game and on the loading screens.  As a person who really likes mythology, I was happy about that.  It's also a good premise for a game.

We will start by looking at the action portion of the game.  Your main character has a spear to attack with, and the range is pretty decent.  The only issue I have with it is how hard it can be to hit the small scorpion enemies.  To compound this issue, they are the first enemy you encounter in the game, which doesn't really give a great impression.  Most enemies are not too hard or annoying to fight, despite their generous attack ranges, but can become a hassle when you have to fight them with other enemies.  It can be hard to dodge while trying to attack vulnerable enemies.  Like the dodge roll, it doesn't always work.  The worst fight I've had was with the frog boss.  It involved a lot of fighting little enemies while watching the big enemy, dodging its attacks, and trying to actually be in a position to make it vulnerable to damage.  Yes, there was a fair amount of swearing at that part.

Besides your melee attack, the spear is able to be thrown.  This works better in theory than in practice.  Aiming doesn't feel quite right to me.  The game wants you to be very exact, which isn't easy to do quickly.  To make matters worse, the camera angle has your character cover up a large portion of the screen, usually where you need to aim.  Throwing the spear to hit switches was okay, since you aren't rushed, but in combat was another matter entirely.  I found it easier to just jump and hit the flying mantises, rather than trying to hit them with the thrown spear.

Now we will move on to the adventure portion.  While combat has its ups and downs, the platforming and adventuring is well done.  I rarely had a problem landing on platforms while jumping around, and the camera is usually well-behaved.  As you go through the game, your character will get animal transformation powers that mostly serve as ways to move around.  The bird allows you to glide forward much longer distances than your jump can cover.  It can also give you a little extra height on a jump, which you will need to use a lot.  The bear can smash certain rocks, the jaguar can leap up special plants to get to higher ground, and the snake can swim across the water.

It takes magic to do these things, so you can't do them for as long as you want.  What I really appreciate is how they can be used in conjunction.  There are several times where you use the jaguar to run up a rock, and then must transform into the bird and glide to another platform, or vice-versa.  The snake can freeze bunches of vines, which the bear can then smash.  It's a cool design element, but I do have one minor gripe.  The jaguar leaps up pretty fast, and if you have to use the bird right after, you won't always know, or have time to react.  You just have to start the sequence again, but it seems like something that could be slightly altered to make it play better.  Otherwise, I really like the transformations, and how they can work together.

One last feature of the game are the four potions the main character can use.  At certain points, you will learn about a new plant that must be harvested to use these potions.  They are assigned to the d-pad, and have various functions.  The healing one is self-explanatory.  There is an explosive one that can break down cracked walls.  Rage makes you stronger for a time, and is obviously best used in combat.  Last is the shield, which will make you immune to damage for a short time, as shown by the shrinking bubble on your character.

It's fine to use them when you need them, since there are several places to grab all the ingredients you need.  You can even jump back to the second area and grab a lot of the aloe needed for the healing potions if and when you use them.  My only complaint with using them is the character must dance when doing so.  I'd be fine with that if the action stopped so he could do that, but it keeps going.  So, like Monster Hunter, you have to be completely safe when using it so you won't get hit.  This is especially bad for the shield potion, since if you get hit while starting, you will lose the potion and not get its effect.  Sarcastic excitement!

Mulaka might not be the most polished action adventure game, as I did hit a few bugs, but it can be really fun.  It's not the longest game, with each area only taking an hour or so, but it has a lot of unique charm.  Learning a bit about another culture's mythology is always a cool thing, and I really liked how the animal transformations were used to explore the environment.  It's worth checking out if you like third-person action adventure games.

The Good:
Fairly solid game.  Has some basic info on Tamahumara mythology, and the animal transformation aspect is well done.

The Bad:
Some enemies are a pain to fight, especially that frog boss.  Ugh.

The SaHD:
It was fun to learn about the Zelda reference trophy by accident.  I totally tried to break the first pot I found.

(Review code for Mulaka was received from the publisher)

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