There have been a handful of games that have successfully mixed real-world cultures with that of magic and adventure. Never Alone was a good example of a game that did both, with its clever understanding of the Iñupiat people. Now we have Mulaka which is based on the culture of the Taramuhara people who reside in Northern Mexico. This is the focus of the game, along with the examination of the lore surrounding their culture and the world they inhabit. But how does it play?
Mulaka is a third person fighting adventure very much in the style of a Zelda or Okami, mixing fighting, puzzles, and exploration. You play as the shaman of your tribe who is charged with driving out the evil spirits from within your homeland.
The enemies you might meet on your journey range from the smallest scorpions to a huge giant mythical crab-like creature. The order of play is that you enter a big open world level, based in the wilderness or, like in one area, a huge city. Here you can explore until your heart’s content, but in order to progress, you have to collect three spirit stones. You get these by either completing a puzzle, defeating some enemies or just simply bouncing on a bird. Yes, you heard me right. Bird bouncing. When you get the three spirit stones it normally ends up in big boss battle…and that’s basically how each world goes. But it’s a lot more exciting then I’m making out I promise you.
As well as your standard movement controls, you also have the combat mode which is a huge part of the game. This provides you with both a light and heavy attack, plus a spear attack that sees you throwing projectiles to get those pesky flying enemies. There are special finishing moves as well, which are a lot of fun and you can use special potions and bombs by gathering resources from plants scattered around the world. The small combat sections are fun – not too taxing – but it’s when it comes to the bosses you have to up your game a fair bit. It is very much a case of studying all the boss attacks and learning to counter, defend and going in for the kill at the right time. These are all designed very well, are great fun and challenging all in the same breath.
The exploration part of Mulaka is good fun and there are some nice mini-games to get involved in along the way, plus a special mode that with a touch of the button lets you see things on another ethereal plane. Here you can find secrets to collect and a whole host of ancient artefacts from the area and people. Every time you fight someone, or hit a tree or rock, you get special coins and currency; you can use this to get a host of upgrades and special powers.
The game is enjoyable and there is quite a lot to do with a game of this price. However at times, it can get a bit buggy – in the sound department alone I found issues in the dialogue and the odd glitch. But the team at Lienzo are aware of this and are trying to iron them out.
Furthermore, the characters you meet along the way are delightful and the level design is very good. Sometimes the battles can get a bit annoying, but that all depends on what kind of gamer you are. I love the easy exploration, lazy lifestyle without the hassle of a constant rumble, but others will relish the fight.
The looks and art style of the game will however quite possibly split the audience, but I love the lush colours and old generation style cartoon world. The characters, creatures, and landscapes really fizz off the screen and the world is a great one to explore. The menus are creative and the cutscenes are very nice indeed. A big shout out goes to the most inventive way of using a medical potion mixed with a traditional dance. The sound has a great track, mixed with some excellent in-game effects. It would have been nice to have an included voiceover as well as some of the characters being vocally acted, but hey you can’t have everything.
Overall though and Mulaka is a great Zelda type game that is certainly decent value for money. The gameplay is good fun with an excellent mixture of puzzle, exploration, and combat. You should be aware of the bugs, and the fights sometimes do go on a bit too long, but overall it’s a great game.
It was a delight to play around with a culture that I knew nothing about, and now I’ve learned a bit more away from the game as well. Give it a go and have a little vacation in sunny Mexico.