Review: Mulaka (PS4)

Review: Mulaka (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Mulaka
Format: PSN (4.13 GB)
Release Date: February 27, 2018
Publisher: Lienzo Studio
Developer: Lienzo Studio
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), £15.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 575 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Much like Never Alone < Kisima Innitchuna >, Mulaka is based upon the myths and legends of a real community of people. But this time, instead of the Native Alaskan Iñupiaq people, you’ll instead be immersed in the stories of the Tarahumara people (also known as the Rarámuri) of Chihuahua in Northern Mexico.

The parallels between the two projects are many and the story of how the game was made is almost as interesting as the game itself. Lienzo Studio is based in Chihuahua and they were looking to make something different, rather than just becoming another small independent studio based outside of the US trying to Americanize their game. For more on this, I urge you to read this excellent piece in Variety, and then come back and finish the review.

Walking that fine line between teaching about an obscure culture and game can be tough but Mulaka is mostly successful at both. You play as the titular Mulaka, a Sukurúame or shaman warrior on a quest to prevent the destruction of the world.

Mulaka PS4 Review 01 Mulaka PS4 Review 02

The game does a good job of explaining the background of the Rarámuri people and a number of their myths and traditions and everything is built around that. The enemies you face all come from those myths and each is named and explained as you encounter them. At its core, Mulaka is an action-platformer but the action is where things tend to break down a bit.

Enemies are varied and you’ll learn how to defeat each of them in their own unique ways, but ultimately as you move from place to place, there’s a bit of repetition that sinks in. With echoes of the old God of War games, among many others, you’ll enter an area, a barrier goes up, you’ll defeat your enemies, the barrier comes down, and you move on.

There’s plenty of exploration and some puzzle solving to be had within each geographic area, all of which are based on real places in Chihuahua, but each time you’re working to find three mythical stones to unlock your passage to the next area. It’s that repetition that can dull the excitement a bit.

There are collectibles, many of which are out of reach until new abilities are unlocked through gameplay, and you can backtrack to previously visited areas to get them all. You’ll also need to collect various plants to power those abilities and heal yourself, though this can be problematic in the heat of battle as you wait for the animations to play out while being attacked from all sides.

Speaking to people you encounter and using you all seeing eye to find the spirits of the recently deceased can unlock side quests and give you more insight into the culture as well.

Mulaka PS4 Review 03 Mulaka PS4 Review 04

Visuals:
The low poly look of the game helps make it stand out in a crowd and everything from the locations to the clothing and artwork are all based on their real world counterparts. Mulaka does an excellent job of bringing to life a region and a people that are all but unknown outside of Northern Mexico.

The wonderful hand drawn look of the introduction to the game and the Rarámuri people was enough to capture my interest and keep me engrossed in the story while the particle effects and otherworldly look of the all seeing eye will make this a unique part of anyone’s collection.

Audio:
This is one area where that game truly shines. The narration is entirely done in the Rarámuri language with English subtitles and that alone makes a huge impact on the immersion in the culture while playing the game.

The music was all recorded using traditional instruments of the Tarahumara and it gives it a unique flavor. Many of the sound effects were also recorded directly in the region as well.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Mulaka PS4 Review 05 Mulaka PS4 Review 06

Conclusion:
As a learning experience, Mulaka fares quite well. Enough of the culture and its myths and legends are brought into the game to arouse a general curiosity and I found myself digging around the internet to find out more about the people and the region, so by that measure it can be considered a success.

The gameplay side of things does tend to stumble a bit with repetition in how things play out over the long haul and minor combat issues. Combining the two however and taking into account the intent, Mulaka is greater than the sum of its parts and a worthwhile experience if only to open your eyes to a little known culture and region that’s rich in history.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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