Mulaka is a third-person adventure title set in northern Mexico as you play as one of the Tarahumara, one of the indigenous people of the region. There is also much to be said about the influences on this game, with Okami coming to mind for its beautiful presentation. The presentation, as well as the mythology of the Rarámuri, as these people are known as, is well represented within the game, and provides a good look at a culture that we don’t see often in games.
Playing as a Sukurúame shaman, you must fight back against the darkness that is corrupting the land. With the help of the demi-god shrines littered around the land, you must prove you are worthy of them to help push back the darkness. What works here is how foreign the culture is, but what I enjoyed is the way Lienzo took their history and made it into a playable medium that doesn’t alienate me, but instead provides a fun way to digest the history.
The supporting cast offers nothing of note and acts more as narrative devices to push the story forward, but that isn’t to say they didn’t provide anything of use, they are some genuinely funny moments found in the interactions of the people here.
Gameplay is a mixture of combat and puzzle solving involving the environments. The starting area in the desert is simple but as the game shifts regions, combat gets more interesting by adding shapeshifting abilities to your arsenal but also new ways to devastate enemies. The problem is the controls when fighting enemies is clunky and hard to enjoy, leaving much to be desired here. Puzzles as well, while nothing explicitly hard, are basic puzzle solving that break up the gameplay sections nicely.
Enemy encounters are based on existing descriptions found within the culture. Many of the enemies found in Mulaka have their own attack patterns and weaknesses you’ll need to exploit to survive and defeating them is satisfying when you learn how to defeat them.
Boss encounters are great and build up over time with the later stages culminating in some of the more memorable moments found in Mulaka. Each of unlocks a new ability to use that adds another layer to the game.
My playthrough wasn’t without bugs that offset the enjoyment of exploring Mexico. In some instances, I’d fall after missing a jump and would end up getting stuck in place, and the only way to get out of it would be to reload my save from a previous point. There is also a handful of serious bugs that were discovered and Lienzo was made aware of these issues, at the time of this publishing, we know that the studio is working on squashing all those bugs to provide a sound experience.
There’s also a wonderful design aesthetic found here, and much like Okami utilizes Japanese art to its strengths, as does Lienzo with Mulaka’s designs as well as music. The presentation is top notch and each region is beautiful in its own way, the low-poly design paints a unique picture as modern art meshes with the culture of Mexico.
Mulaka travels to a corner of the world we so rarely get to see today, and the bold move to do that is commendable in an industry that banks on sequels more than anything. Lienzo took a risk with their game but it paid off I’d say and it even taught me about a group of people I didn’t know existed up until I came across the press release. There are some good ideas here and gorgeous visuals, but the combat feels messy and detracts from the experience and the message of the game.