Native culture… yes. Indie games always seem to really crack into that creative nature that it is known for, and thanks to no limitations, they can find inspiration in a vast number of things. And for today's game, they got their inspiration from the culture of the native Tarahumara, who were known for long distance running. It’s definitely an interesting concept and one that actually fascinates me. What are the Tarahumara and what is their culture like? Well, let
S play the indie title Mulaka and find out.
Mulaka has you playing as a Tarahumara who is on a journey alone throughout the northern regions of Mexico from the vast deserts to lush forests and rivers in the hopes of finding the ancient spirit gods and gain their help in defeating the evil spirits that are lurking the land and harming the people. The world of Mulaka alone was already a very interesting place. I remember just gazing out into the low poly desert at the start and wanting to explore the whole place before I continued on with my journey. As the game progresses, you start to leave the empty deserts and find yourself in massive jungles filled with green plants and forests with massive trees. It’s like the world around you is starting to get more life as you defeat more of the evil spirits. That said, your character’s running animation is just… ugh. It’s not too distracting, but you know what I see when I look at this run? I see this
I guess Crybaby was more influential than I thought. But that’s only the visuals. How does the gameplay fair? Well, the game is standard combat and puzzle solving. In each world, there is a boss hidden behind a locked door. To get to the door, you will either have to help a fellow Tarahumara, defeat a group of enemies, or solve a puzzle to get it. Once you do, the door will open and you will fight the boss and then move on to the next level. Simple stuff that at least offers new changes in how you get the gems. Some puzzles require you to change the water of a fountain, and it was fine the first time, but after doing it a fourth, I thought it could use a change. But the puzzles with using the spirit god's abilities was really fun. From smashing open walls with the bear to using the bird to glide and even get a double jump to using the leopard and hoping to god it actually connects with the ledge instead of falling all the way back down. It’s great. Helping the villagers is honestly the most fun. Especially when they tell you their stories of how they got there, what they are hoping to do with the help of the spirits and seeing the outcome of what happens. Sometimes, the outcome is… pretty depressing and makes everything feel like there is a weight to it, and it really does impress me.
That said, the combot is this games weakest feature, in my eyes. Now, the combat itself is not bad. You got a basic light and heavy strike, dodge, and the ability to throw spears. But my problem comes from when the game forces you to fight the enemies in an arena while it will usually throw the same groups of enemies at you. Armored enemies that will knock you down, flying enemies that you need to throw the spear at, and a few little ones for fodder. I feel like the enemies should’ve been spaced out a little more to make room for you and to enjoy the combat without feeling exhausted. I know there is an upgrade system in the game, and shockingly, cause the person who upgrades you is in one area only, and I never went back there and I feel as though it was optional to even get to them.
The bosses are fun, though. Most of them feel like puzzles you gotta solve, like trying to find one fake among a dozen copies, or using the bird ability to climb to the top and hit the weak spot. They are all decently made and I do enjoy them… Except the fight with Gano. This boss genuinely gave me motion sickness. You have to fight this boss in a style similar to Shadow of the Colossus. But the game isn’t programmed well for that, so you just clip the camera into the bosses body and get hurled around like a football into the air and it took me thirty minutes to hit all of his weak spots, and I was so bitter about it, and right before the final boss too, so I had to stop just to calm down and to keep a clear mind.
That being said, the lore that the game introduced did fascinate me. I wanted to know more about it and it actually got me interested in the Tarahumara people and read about them online. And the game itself, from what I heard, does donate a portion of what it makes to externalizing the history of the Tarahumara people, so it really makes me sad that I have to criticize parts of this game when the intentions are good. Mulaka is a very interesting game, with some hiccups, but overall an interesting experience that I came out of feeling satisfied. You may not like the gameplay much, but I found that, despite the issues, the world and the story and characters were enough to keep me going. If you’re looking for an interesting adventure title that isn’t too long, give Mulaka a look
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