3D action platformers can be some of the most memorable games when done right. Does Mulaka have what it takes to stand alongside genre giants? Grab your favourite spear and get ready for a shape-shifting adventure.
Mulaka is set in northern Mexico and follows the folklore of the Tarahumara people. You play as a shaman who's on a mission to rid the land of evil. The basic gameplay involves running around and jumping while combat is generally accomplished through light and strong attacks, dodging, and throwing your spear. Along the journey, you'll be awarded favours from gods that grant you additional abilities such as being able to transform into a bear, bird, puma, and snake. You'll also gather plants to craft potions that can heal you, provide you with a shield, explode when thrown, and fill you with rage. Finally, while you're exploring the somewhat expansive stages, you can use Sukurúame Vision to see where points of interest are located as well as uncover otherwise hidden things like ghosts. It's pretty cool stuff and all these abilities are rather nifty.
The setting and story premise of Mulaka are incredibly immersive seeing as the Tarahumara culture is very interesting. Their view of the natural world is nothing short of wondrous and it shows through the beautifully drawn story scenes and loading screens. Therefore, it pains me to say that the world of Mulaka simply doesn't live up to its inspirations. For starters, the visuals are simple and polygonal which is sometimes charming but here, the environments and character models mostly come across as lazy and unmemorable. The audio is almost as bland with generic sound effects and music that you definitely won't think back on after you stop playing. Although the soundtrack uses some traditional instruments, it also includes too much synthetic orchestral pieces that cheapen the aural atmosphere.
As I already mentioned, the various abilities are fantastic. Flying around briefly as a bird to reach distant platforms, transforming into a bear to smash giant rocks, and climbing cliff sides as a puma feels pretty awesome. When you combine these abilities with the variety of potions and simple combat mechanics, it makes tackling the unique and challenging boss fights quite a rewarding endeavor. Some of these bosses are massive and one even tasks you with ascending a column while dealing with its underlings and carefully throwing your spear at its weak points. Whether you're luring a charging giant scorpion, jumping past massive waves caused by an oversized toad, or trying to snag a flying creature in the air, there's no denying just how cool some of these boss fights are.
All of that being said, the gameplay of Mulaka is disappointingly unpolished. I constantly found myself struggling with timing issues and finicky platforming segments to the point where playing it began to feel more like a chore than a good time. For example, using a potion causes you to stand still for a handful of seconds. Meanwhile, an enemy may get in a few attacks and possibly kill you. Sometimes, the potion will be used up but you don't heal at all due to being struck by a foe thus canceling the healing animation. On top of this, the open-world stages are incredibly tedious and repetitive. Each one tasks you with finding three crystals that act as keys to unlock the boss door then you fight the boss. Finding these keys can be a test of patience as you aimlessly wander around looking for anything that you can interact with. Sure, the Sukurúame Vision comes in handy but it rarely intuitively guides you in the right direction.
After playing Lienzo's highly underrated Hunter's Legacy, I was expecting a lot from Mulaka. Although it succeeds in having an engaging premise, it unfortunately fails to offer any satisfying gameplay.
- + Incredible setting and immersive story based on Tarahumara culture
- + Neat abilities to unlock
- + Boss fights are pretty cool
- - Unpolished gameplay that often results in needless struggles
- - Visuals and audio are subpar at best
- - Repetitive and tedious stages