You could probably mistake Lienzo’s Mulaka for yet another third person action adventure with a fresh and somewhat exotic coat of paint, but oh, how wrong you’d be. This is a game where its themes inform its design in all things big and small.
You’re the Sukurúame, a shaman trying to save the Sierra Tarahumara from destruction by mythical forces brought forth by constant conflict. In order to do that, you have to travel the lands and ask four demigods for assistance. With their help and the powers they bestow on you, you can save the Tarahumara people.
This is not just some story, it’s based on the actual culture and mythology of the Tarahumara, an indigenous people from Mexico. Lienzo worked closely with them to create Mulaka, and it shows. Sure, when you’re off adventuring you’ll be fighting giant beasts and exploring the Sierra, but in its quieter moments, the game paints a portrait of everyday life, steeped in peaceful rituals and oral tradition. All of this is portrayed in a colorful, low poly look which is simply a joy to behold.
By helping other people you earn “Kórima, the sierra’s thankfulness, the positive energy created by good deeds,” which lets you upgrade some of your skills. Health is restored by collecting plants and (automatically) crafting potions. You are literally living off the land and being a paragon of virtue, and all of this is integrated naturally into the game, without any gamey features sticking out too much.
The controls are not always up to the task of handling combat situations well. There’s no lock-on funtion, and taking on lots of creatures at once can feel a little challenging at times. It’s here that the game cannot quite measure up to the polish of more expensive productions, but at the end of the day, this is just a matter of getting used to its quirks and adapting.
Overall, Mulaka is an absolute joy to play and it manages the difficult task of conveying culture and mythology effortlessly. Are games the right medium to preserve culture? Probably not – or at least not this way – but Lienzo have created something special here, nevertheless.
(If you’re interested in the creation of the game and how the Tarahumara people fit into it, I highly recommend watching this short “making of” series.)
You can purchase Mulaka from GOG or Steam for $19.99. The game is also available on the PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. For more information, visit the game’s website or follow developer Lienzo on Facebook or Twitter.