Mulaka is a 3D action-adventure game spotlighting the wondrous Tarahumara, an indigenous tribe native to northwestern Mexico and renowned for their remarkable endurance. The Tarahumara are particularly well-known for their long-distance running capabilities: in a single session, they can run hundreds of miles across rough and rocky terrain, and for this reason, Mulaka, our shaman hero, is never limited in stamina as he traverses the game’s landscape to find the demigods and save the world from destruction.
Being a shaman, Mulaka can also view the spiritual dimension with his third eye. With this ability, Mulaka can spot where he needs to head next, find invisible platforms, and locate where herbs are planted. (Herbs can be harvested and whipped into helpful concoctions!) Additionally, Mulaka may transform into up to four unlockable demigods for help with puzzle-solving, platforming, and combat.
Gameplay is linear and features a variety of levels, each inspired by the Tarahumara’s native land of northwestern New Mexico. Mulaka’s lush landscapes include forests, deserts, jungles, lakeshores, and cascading waterfalls, and our hero must search these lands for the four demigods. Along his journey, Mulaka encounters a number of fellow natives who need his help. And because Mulaka helps them so selflessly, he proves to the demigods that humanity is worth saving.
Mulaka’s level design encourages players to complete each new challenge at whatever speed and intensity is comfortable, and the high volume of secrets and collectibles—some of them only reachable with the help of demigod transformations—will have you coming back to re-explore past levels and find all that Mulaka has in store. Plus, with a fast-travel system, Metroidvania-style re-exploration is simple and fun.
Makala handles remarkably well, and its controls are straightforward and precise. You may stumble a bit when you first begin, but once you’re used to the shaman’s movements and the coordinating buttons on your controller, you’ll have no problem. The combat system is solid and engaging, and when you encounter a new enemy, you learn its background and mythology, since Mulaka’s enemies are based on the captivating lore of the Tarahumara people.
It’s clear that Mulaka honors and carefully preserves the Tarahumara culture, and this is especially evident in the game’s sound design. The soundtrack aims for authenticity by using traditional Tarahumara musical instruments, and to include indigenous Tarahumara speech in this game, the developers reached out to a cultural sector in Mexico that preserves the native languages of antiquity and sought help from Martín Makawi, a native poet and musician who provided voice acting for several cutscenes in Mulaka.
The N64-esque graphics are silky smooth and capture the authenticity of the northwestern Mexico landscape in a whimsical and playful style. In the world of video games, indigenous culture is not often portrayed in its full majestic glory, but Mulaka is different, at least for us: it took us back to a magical time before the land was crushed from the weight of industrialism and destructive human activity, a time when the water was clear, the air was clean, and people could be one with nature.
Mulaka’s breathtaking adventure has us hooked, and we love its preservation and exultation of the remarkable Tarahumara tribe. But is Mulaka a Nintendeal? We sure think so! For just under $20, you get an engaging story, dense gameplay, and Metroidvania-style replayability, and you get to learn about the awesome Tarahumara culture. In all honesty, we hadn’t heard of the Tarahumara before playing this game, and we think this may be the case for a good number of players. We’re thrilled with the cultural preservation achieved by this game, and we hope to see more games follow suit.
Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Publisher – Lienzo
Developer – Lienzo
Price – $19.99
Genre – Action, Adventure
Size – 3.8 GB