Well, it’s certainly refreshing to get to tackle one of these games. I don’t think I have touched a game of this caliber since beating The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Not only does Mulaka have its share of inspirations, but it’s also backed by an interesting heritage. While indie games come in many shapes and sizes, surprisingly few have tackled the kind of subject matter Mulaka presents.
This game celebrates the culture of Mexico’s Tarahumara and aims to tap into the superhuman abilities of a playable Sukurúame. The plot heavily revolves around creatures from mythical Tarahumara lore and this is conveyed through dialogues between NPCs and wonderfully illustrated loading screens that share the lore of the world.
While the unique themes are welcome, the premise is familiar territory. In each area on the map, you grab three crystals and fight an end boss. The cycle repeats for several more hours and along the way, you get access to powers of demigods as they join forces with you to stop the overarching evil. Think Breath of the Wild and how the Champions lend their powers to Link.
Mulaka looks like a cross between the visually pleasing Rime and the polygonal Luncheon Kingdom from Super Mario Odyssey. There are some beautiful views in this game but close up it can look a bit like a Nintendo 64 title (especially when staring at the NPCs – Majora’s Mask anyone?).
Given the game’s emphasis on atmosphere, the soundtrack would obviously carry those overtones throughout the journey. It fits the mood pretty well, even if it’s not exactly memorable at times. Also featured in this category are the usual attack sounds and vocalized grunts and they perform as well as you would expect.
It’s easy to get to the conclusion that Mulaka is deeply inspired by the Zelda franchise. After all, I did make that parallel with Breath of the Wild earlier in this review. However, the game is a lot more straightforward in practice. The worlds aren’t as free-flowing as one may expect; running into invisible walls indicating where boundaries lay may be an inevitability. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I mean, the Sukurúame controls well, and he’s a capable fighter when enemies have to be fought. It’s enjoyable to run around and check out the scenery for what it’s worth.
Until the game forces you into a combat ring, anyway. There’s a neat variety of enemies, and combat can be enjoyable when it comes to planning out what enemies to go after. Unfortunately, there’s no real incentive to fight them other than when the game prevents you from progressing until you defeat the wave(s) thrown at you. On the subject of combat, it works well for the most part; the one thing that blows is the throwing spear since it’s never ideal to prepare a focused attack on enemies constantly moving about (Also, there’s no lock-on feature).
As for the demigod powers? Eh…I could do without them. All they do is allow you to access paths you couldn’t get to without them. My favorite is easily the bird power because making longer jumps with its gliding ability is far more useful and far less situational. The sight ability is also a neat substitution for a map since you’d get to see what direction and how far away the important stuff is.
Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that my opinion is pretty mixed here. There are things I like about Mulaka, as well as things I feel should have been changed for the better. It’s not a bad game by any means; I just believe it lacks punch and polish in comparison to other games in the genre. Do not misunderstand the score if you’ve read the review for the PS4 version, either. I’m not saying this Switch port is inferior; I’m saying I didn’t quite enjoy it to the same length as Mr. Faden did. If Mulaka ever gets a sequel that addresses its lesser qualities, however, I’d be interested in seeing how things have improved from here.