Alba: A Wildlife Adventure launched on PC and Apple Arcade towards the end of 2020, and now after some months of exclusivity, the environmental exploration game finds its way on other platforms including Xbox. The game carries a strong environmental message, but more than just a message, the development team, Ustwo Games, itself supports a range of great causes, going so far as to donate proceeds towards initiatives like reforestation. If anything, having the title appear on more platforms not only spreads its positive message to a wider gaming audience, but it also helps that as an adventure platformer Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is an absolute treat.
The game has our protagonist Alba visit her grandparents, heading to a beautiful Mediterranean island called Pinar del Mar, a sunny paradise that is unfortunately facing a great deal of pollution and other environmental issues. The game starts off with Alba’s early childhood visit to this island, where before she even learns to fully walk or speak, is able to use a smartphone to take a photograph. Fast forward a few years later, Alba has grown up a bit and once again visits her grandparents for her annual week-long holiday. Upon arriving she quickly learns about all the rubbish and pollution impacting the natural beauty of the island, and what’s worse, the mayor wants to build a luxury hotel over the nature reserve to attract messy tourists.
Armed with her smartphone and supported by friends and family, Alba sets out on a mission to clean up the island and gather 50 signatures for a petition to stop the construction of the hotel. The smartphone is largely used to take photographs, which allows Alba to identify various wildlife using an app and build a personal encyclopedia of sorts. There’s almost a Pokémon Snap flair here, and it is both rewarding and engaging to snap up all the wildlife that inhabit the island; some rarer than others.
More than just taking photos, Alba leads by example as several tasks involve cleaning up litter and even helping animals and birds out of rubbish traps. Cleaning up and helping with chores is one thing, but as things progress Alba gets her hands on a toolbox, and then proceeds to repair various things around the island, everything from birdhouses to bridges. Fixing up a simple birdhouse is fine, although questionable for a child to do unsupervised, but then going to repair bridges, benches, stairs, and other public infrastructure is just plain careless. Firstly, who allows a child to engage in such dangerous construction work without supervision, and secondly, are any of her works even up to code?
All kidding aside, there are a lot of tasks and collectibles for Alba to pursue all over the island. While her main objective is to clean things up and collect signatures for the petition, there are plenty of side distractions which make the most of the island setting. Speaking of, the island is vibrant, brimming with detail. Every nook and cranny are worth exploring, and you can even catch a ferry to a smaller island too. Whether it is discovering new wildlife or finding some tasks to complete, there’s no shortage of things to do and thankfully, after you complete the week-long adventure, the post-game allows you to finish up everything else at your own pace.
Certainly, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is designed for younger players, but the experience as a whole is a joy for anyone looking for a relaxing journey. Video games can be quite taxing, and so something like Alba feels like a genuine vacation. Bringing it all together is the gorgeous visual style complemented by excellent lighting effects. The character models have a nice stop-motion clay aesthetic about them, and the vibrancy of it all makes the game world a joy to soak into.
Sadly, like any good holiday the game is over before you know it, and it doesn’t take long to tally up all the leftover objectives in the post-game. This is meant to be a blissfully simple and easy affair, and so as long as you know what you’re signing up for, there is a lot of genuine enjoyment to be had here even during the game’s short play time.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure feels like taking a vacation on your Xbox. Even while players explore a blissful island paradise, there is still an important environmental message to learn, and plenty of tasks to engage in as players interact with the vibrant setting and its various colourful characters. Although the experience is largely designed for younger players, there is plenty of incentive for any player to kick back and soak in a video game that genuinely feels like a holiday escape.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure provides a calming holiday for gamers on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One