After our interview with the developers of Mulaka, they provided us with a review code so that we could experience Mulaka’s journey for ourselves. Mulaka is based on the culture and folklore of the Tarahumara people of Mexico. It puts you in the role of a Sukurúame, or shaman, fighting to save the land from the growing darkness and corruption.
Mulaka is an action-adventure game with a fairly straightforward setup. In each area, you’ll need to gather three stones that will open the way for you to progress to the boss battle and your goal. Along the way, you’ll fight enemies in a basic combat system using light attacks and heavy attacks, as well as a spear throw. Some enemies you’ll encounter in the open, while others lock you into an arena-like space for you to fight them in waves. These battles get repetitive at times, and it might have been better if there were more natural encounters instead. Boss battles are pretty interesting and where the Legend of Zelda inspirations shine, as each boss has a trick you need to exploit to figure out how to damage it.
As you progress, your repertoire of skill also grows, although basic combat remains the same. You’ll learn four different potions you can make by gathering herbs, and you’ll also gain the ability to transform into animals, which lets you access previously-unavailable locations. There are also occasional puzzles to solve as part of your quest, mainly mechanical puzzles to get water flowing from one point to the next, as well as platforming sections.
A Sukurúame also possesses a special magical sight that lets you see things other people can’t. Not only does this come in handing when fighting invisible enemies, it also points you toward your quest goals and nearby caches of Korima (energy you can use to unlock upgrades) in case you aren’t sure where to go. However, exploration is also rewarded, especially if you want to learn more about the Tarahumara culture. Each area contains secret items that you can find for additional lore, as well as spirits you can talk to.
Most of the game is presented in a bright, colorful style reminiscent of games like Okami. This works well for it, although I wish there were more interactions with other characters to help bring this world to life. Significant cutscenes are told through black and white sketches instead, an interesting choice that increases their mystical feeling.
In the end, Mulaka is a nice game with some cool ideas and a good use of mythology. Unfortunately, it feels unpolished and clunky at times, from clipping through environments to commands that don’t always register quite right. Nevertheless, Mulaka is a fun action-adventure game if you’re looking for something with a bit of nostalgia or a glimpse of a culture not typically seen in games.