Games often take a lot of liberties when drawing from mythologies: God of War, Dante's Inferno, Assassin's Creed, etc. All of these games took what they wanted from canon and presented a modified and video game-friendly version, goddesses and creatures they barrowed. Mulaka, a new game from small time Mexican indie developer, Lienzo, joins this tradition with their action-platformer, Mulaka.
In Mulaka, you are a Sukururame, a shaman of the Tarahumara people of Mexico. You travel around the various landscapes and have the simple task of helping villagers and seeking help from the gods to prevent the destruction of the world. Throughout, you learn more and more about the Tarahumara people and their beliefs and their myths.
It's a lovely soirée into a culture that I've never learned about - and while I can't speak to its accuracy, it was nice to see that there was effort put into educating the audience as we played.
The good of Mulaka rests in its design and in the jaunts into the mythology of the Tarahumara people. The world that we're dropped into is a beautifully crafted one - the graphics are a little raw, but that adds a certain air of simplicity that forces to appreciate everything else the game gives you. Not to mention, there's a certain amount of beauty in the wide-open world that run across.
For example, you start in a desert and are tasked with obtaining three magic crystals to open a stone door. To do this, you have to go to three different sections of this vast landscape - and the bare openness of the world doesn't read as boring. This is due to the smattering of enemies and extra bits that are cleverly placed in order to give you just a little something to do outside of your mission.
Then you've got the quirky and, at times, adorable designs of the monsters you fight. You fight scorpions and big skull spiders, and some spirit foxes, and many more - and each design works and has just enough variety to keep you interested.
Plus, you learn about these monsters and how they relate to the Tarahumara people. And when you're not traveling, you are treated to beautiful title cards that give you small, one-sentence facts and tales of the culture. Not to mention, the smattering of NPCs that dot the landscape will sometimes be important people in these myths! It's a fun way to learn some very basic facts about a heretofore not-talked-about culture.
But is it enough to redeem the game's less-than-stellar qualities?
Unfortunately not. When you get down to the facts - Mulaka is boring. It's gameplay is floaty and strange - and there seems to be a severe lack of platforming in this platformer. On the technical side, Mulaka doesn't perform. It's unfortunate, because this game does have so much going for it - and perhaps you could overlook the issue, but I doubt it.
While there is some variety to what you can do, the unfortunate truth is the fights feel sluggish - due to the hit animations. It's unfortunate. When battling something small, like scorpions, it feels like it takes forever - there's no fluidity in movement. And in a game with hack-and-slash mechanics like this one - there has to be some sort of fluid motion. Even walking looks awkward, because the character model almost looks like it's doing an quirky little shuffle - not an actual walk.
The worst part is when there are platforming sections and there's a slight delay when you attempt to jump, so you wind up sinking in what I imagine is some sort of brown quicksand or mud. It's a mess. This game's controls are a mess. It needs to be patched or something - anything to fix what we've been given.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Mulaka is an ambitious game and does well to showcase the culture upon which it is based, but unfortunately, a large amount of technical issues mire this indie title and make it more frustrating than fun. If you want to experience it for yourself, you can always drop the $20 on Steam - but, of course, that's up to you.
I just hope that these bugs get addressed sooner, rather than later, because this game has the potential to be much more than what we're given.
Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played games since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust! If you have any games you'd like him to unpack, hit him up!
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