Mulaka is a 3D adventure game that relies heavily on the mythology of the Tarahumara people to tell the story of its titular character, a shaman known as the Sukurúame. The beliefs of the Tarahumara are played out in beautiful, stylized black and white cutscenes that detail how the tribe believes they are children of the stars born to the Sun and the Moon. An evil force known as the Teregori has brought chaos and war to the Tarahumara, and it is now up to our protagonist, Mulaka, to seek out the assistance of the demigods with hopes of restoring peace for his people. While the cut scenes for the game play out in these painterly sketched black and white stills, gameplay takes place in a world that is full of vibrant colors with a minimalist low poly art style.
Players begin Mulaka in a large desert area which serves as a training grounds for the shaman’s basic combat abilities. It also served, unfortunately, as my first taste of the jankier side of the game. One area of the map was cordoned off with quicksand, and in order to get across there was some minor platforming necessitated. Upon jumping onto the platform, the character model clipped through and died to the quicksand. Rather than resetting the character back to the shore where he would be safe, the game continued to respawn Mulaka still clipped inside the platform where he would instantly die only to reset the cycle. This occured 6 times before I opted to cut my losses, quit to the main menu and restart from scratch. Thankfully it was early enough in the game that restarting was an option. The clipping through the world and dying unnecessarily aspect did occur again later in the game, but not to the severity that it did in the first area.
As a warrior, Mulaka comes outfitted with a handy spear that can either be thrown or used for light and heavy hitting close range attacks. With a little skillful button mashing, players can string together the spear’s attacks for impressive combos that easily dispatch enemies. During combat, Mulaka’s spirit gauge will gradually fill up and can eventually be used to execute a heavy hitting finishing move that can effectively clear the game’s battle arenas. Mulaka also has the special ability of Sukurúame vision which the player can use to see enemy health bars and icons that indicate key items and other points of interest in the world, such as the plants used to craft useful potions.
On his quest to bring peace to his people, the shaman must track down and seek the assistance of four demigods. In doing so, Mulaka then receives the ability to transform into the animal shapes of the demigods himself. These transformations open up additional gameplay mechanics, allowing the character fly short distance or knock down large walls that are blocking your path. These mechanics, unfortunately, are very limited in their usage in the world. Despite being able to transform into a woodpecker, for example, Mulaka’s ability to fly is limited only to catching wind streams or gliding a short distance after a jump. Transforming to the bear allows Mulaka to take down problematic walls, but only the ones that are distinctly marked with bear claws and paw prints. If you were hoping to stray from the predetermined path and look amongst the world for secrets, you may be a bit disappointed.
While the technical side of Mulaka could certainly use a little more polish, the story itself is an intriguing look into a culture that many people may not otherwise find themselves exposed to. Paired with an ambient soundtrack and contrasted art styles that highlight the story and flesh out the experience, Mulaka ultimately becomes an intriguing entry into the 3D adventure game scene that wears its inspiration on its sleeve but stands alone as a worthwhile experience despite its flaws.