When I fired up my Switch and first started playing Mulaka, a new game by indie developer Lienzo. I learned the basics of being a Sukurúame; a Tarahumara shaman, running and jumping through the desert using hand to hand combat to slay the likes of giant scorpions and mantis men. As the story progressed I found myself summoning the power of animal demigods to best stone deities and figure out what’s behind the nefarious behavior of the inhabitants of ancient northern Mexico.
The art style of Mulaka is incredibly charming as it almost takes me back to the Nintendo 64 era with its low poly characters and landscapes. The characters, colors, and artwork even mimic Tarahumara paintings and culture. The entire story is actually based on the ancient beliefs of the Tarahumara, modeling enemies and bosses on the folklore of the people. Lienzo designed Mulaka hand in hand with renowned anthropologists and Tarahumara leaders to capture the true essence of the culture in the game, and it was done very well while still playing like a fun traditional 3D platformer.
The battle sequences in the game can be very intense when using your near superhuman running abilities to stay mobile, darting in and out of battle. The main controls are simple with a weak attack, strong attack, jump, and a dodge. Using them together with your demigod abilities as you obtain them throughout the game add a bit more complexity and depth to some of the boss battles. Not only can you use these demigod abilities to fight, but they also play a major role in how you traverse the land. There are even areas that you can’t get to without certain abilities that you will have to come back to once you’ve unlocked them.
Speaking of replayability; did I mention that there were collectibles? Well, there are historic items and areas to find in each region of the map to discover and learn about. There are also (blue) ghosts to find, using your Sukurúame vision, that can even give you tips on progressing through the game.
I didn’t have a whole lot of technical issues during my playthrough that really “hurt my feelings” but I will mention a few that stuck with me. The flight sequences when you transform into a bird can cause a slight frame rate drop which can be somewhat disorienting during the later platforming stages. For the most part, the game runs fairly smoothly with a lower frame rate than most modern games but I haven’t noticed anything game breaking. I even fell through the map at one point but ended up just appearing back where I was after a few seconds. I also had a weird time glitching on the back of a certain boss but all very minor bugs overall that never took away from the vibrant storytelling.
Lienzo is an independent game developer based in Chihuahua, Mexico. Mulaka is backed economically and culturally by ICHICULT (Chihuahua Institute of Culture) and the YOREME fund. Everything has been done so you can experience the power and adventurous history of the Tarahumara culture.
I have completely enjoyed my experience with Mulaka, and at $19.99 on the Nintendo Switch eShop, I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a classic indie 3D platformer with a colorful story and fun mechanics. It may be a bit rough around the edges as far as graphics go but it will charm the bands off of an armadillo.