Mulaka is a third-person adventure which takes you across northern Mexico's breathtaking landscapes. The game features a blocky pastel-like aesthetic which suits the title's mystical story. The Rarámuri, or Tarahumara, are the Native American people of northwestern Mexico who are renowned for their long-distance running abilities. You embark on the journey of a Sukurúame, a Tarahumara shaman, as you fight against a darkness corrupting the land. Luckily, you can channel the power of the gods so the task isn't as daunting as it sounds.

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History and locations

The Tarahumara were originally inhabitants of the Mexican state of Chihuahua, but due to conflicts they retreated to the high sierras and canyons. When the Spanish invaded in the 16th century, the Tarahumara relocated to the Sierra Madre Occidental. Mulaka takes place in the Sierra Madre Occidental which is often called the Sierra Tarahumara because of the people.

Mulaka takes place in the Sierra Madre Occidental region.

The Sierra Tarahumara is a mostly arid environment which relies on the mountains as a source of water. This important detail is preserved in the game because you traverse dry plains and deserts but sometimes come across lush canyons. The land is as much of a character in Mulaka as its residents. It also plays an important role in the story later on.

Environment and visuals

Environment variety is a highlight of the game because you get to explore areas ranging from vast deserts to lively canyons. While attempting to cross the various kinds of terrain on foot would be impossible, you can always morph into an eagle or snake to make the journey less strenuous.

You can always morph into an eagle or snake.

Despite Mulaka's basic visuals, the use of eye-popping colors brings it all to life. If definitely one of the most unique-looking games on Xbox One at the moment along the lines of Astroneer or Deep Rock Galactic.

Gameplay and mechanics

Gameplay revolves around either solving puzzles in environments inspired by real Tarahumara locations or engaging in melee combat against challenging foes. Throughout your journey, you gain numerous abilities like shapeshifting and devastating attacks which either help you traverse the vast environments or take down colossal beasts. While the story is simple in many ways, the visuals and enigmatic characters elevate the experience.

Gameplay revolves around solving puzzles or melee combat.

The game slowly reveals all of its mechanics over the course of several hours. You start off by simply attacking monsters and learning their weaknesses. For example, certain beetle-like creatures need to be struck from behind. Later on, you gain powerful attacks that can take out legions of monsters at once.

Mulaka also does an excellent job of gradually increasing the difficulty. Enemies you encounter in the game's first desert region don't pose much of a challenge. However, you'll soon be fighting giants and other unearthly creatures. Unlike games like Dark Souls, you never feel like you hit a wall and can't progress further.

Controls and performance

Mulaka features imperfect combat on Xbox One which greatly impacts the experience. A lot of the action relies on hand-to-hand maneuvers so quick moves are necessary. Dodging attacks from powerful enemies is also a must but the frame rate doesn't allow for that. The end result is somewhat clunky gameplay.

Mulaka features imperfect combat on Xbox One.

The game appears to be running at 30 FPS on the system and this is one of the reasons behind increased input lag. The title doesn't feature particularly demanding graphics so this decision is rather curious. Mulaka also doesn't support Xbox One X so players see no benefit on Microsoft's new console. Adding a 60 FPS option would've dramatically improved the experience even if were limited to Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro.

Bugs and impact

There are also odd issues like your character getting stuck in a corner and unable to move. These problems are few and far between but they require a restart. The checkpoint system is rather lenient so it doesn't impact gameplay, but it's still jarring to witness again and again. The game is quite polished but there are some fundamental flaws here and there. Hopefully, over the coming months, the developer will improve the title as more gamers get their hands on it and report the problems.

There are odd issues like your character getting stuck in a corner and unable to move.

Another example of this would be how cumbersome jumping is. Many areas in Mulaka require precise jumps where you have to run to the edge of a dune, which ends in quicksand, and then leap onto a platform. Unfortunately, this means that you have to run to the absolute limit and then press a button. This results in a lot of errors and unintentional deaths.

It takes a while to master the jumping and controls, but it's not a rewarding endeavor. It's more about figuring out what values the developer assigned to the different animations.

Mulaka review conclusion

Overall, Mulaka is a good game which stands out more for its setting than gameplay. Had the combat and movement been more precise, it would've been a truly exceptional title. Customers should purchase this game if they wish to explore the world more than face off against the enemies that inhabit it. It's clear that Mulaka needs more work when it comes to gameplay. Hopefully the developer will introduce a high frame rate mode for Xbox One X soon just as the studio promised all those months ago.

Pros:

  • Great visuals.
  • Easy to learn.
  • Great setting and theme.

Cons:

  • Clunky combat.
  • Movement needs refinement.
  • No Xbox One X support.

3.5 out of 5

Mulaka will be available on Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch, and PlayStation 4 in the coming days. The game should launch on Xbox One on March 2, priced at $19.99.

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