Beasts of Maravilla Island
Publisher: Whitehorn Digital
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Beasts of Maravilla Island was originally crowdfunded via Kickstarter, and is a 3d adventure game with a focus on taking photos of wild-life. The animals are fantastical in nature, the inhabitants of a strange magical island called Maravilla. You play as Marina, a young woman who recently inherited her late grandfather’s camera and his journal detailing his own experiences on the island. Carrying on his legacy, it’s now Marina’s turn to explore the unusual island and find out more about the magic it carries.
Part Pokemon Snap, part walking sim with some puzzle mechanics, this game is an indie release which offers a light, fun couple of hours. The world of Maravilla itself is bright and colourful and the visuals are truly the highlight of this game. Rendered in 3d it can look a bit blocky and clunky at times but certain areas in the game such as the glowing jungle are incredibly striking and make great use of the strong use of colour and contrast. The creatures themselves fit this cute artstyle, and offer some neat little alterations on typical creatures people are already familiar with – flying monkeys and scaled otters for example. It’s a little simplistic at times but it’s still fun to play detective and hunt them all down in all their various locations. The actual actions of these creatures feels a little one note sadly as most tend towards repeating the same actions over and over and it doesn’t really feel like you’re truly interacting with them. For a short game though, there is just enough to keep you interested without getting too bored. There’s also a nice message about ecology and appreciating the beauty of nature which never feels too heavy handed in its delivery.
As you continue through the game, you fill out your photo album with new photos of the animal’s behaviour and tick off objectives to find all the various species on offer. None of this was too difficult which adds to the cozy feel of the game. The few puzzle elements scattered throughout offer just enough of complexity to make you feel like you’re working for the photos. In addition, there are some nice extras in the main menu once you’ve progressed a certain amount through the game where you can collect ‘statues’ of the creatures in an art gallery, edit pictures and play back music. It’s easy enough to compare this game to the other photography centric big AAA game recently re-released, Pokemon Snap. Overall this game however suffers a little from a lack of available angles to create truly amazing pictures with your camera, although the addition of a selfie mode is a nice touch.
The music itself is low key but generally peaceful and fits nicely with the areas you’re exploring, creating a nice ambience without being overly intrusive. The game’s main theme plays over the main menu, featuring beautiful panpipes. Where this game truly stumbles however is in the production quality, which is painfully evident throughout. The camera and movement is often rather janky, and the picture frame rate tends to drop drastically at times, particularly during the latter half of the game. Load screens between areas are extremely long and sometimes made the game crash for me all together. It had a tendency to be a little glitchy at times also, at one point kicking me out of the game. Hopefully these issues might be patched out in the future as the game is still fresh in it’s release but the fact remains that the Switch console can’t handle the frame rate of the game, which is a shame.
All in all, Beasts of Maravilla Island is a cute and cozy game to while away a few hours with – it’s unlikely to keep your attention for longer then that and there’s little replayable value beyond attempting to get better pictures. Still, there are some great ideas on show and the bright aesthetics and collect them all mechanic of capturing the island’s inhabitants’ photos is sure to make for a fun experience for those playing.
A short bite-size game about taking photos of mystical creatures on a mysterious island - calming and peaceful with some gorgeous ambiance and world.