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Mulaka: A “Cute” Game

Alexis Ibarra-Ibarra

This article is in English, da click aquí para la versión en Español.

A few months ago, I bought Mulaka (2018) on Steam. Mulaka was advertised as the first big Mexican videogame that had the plus of telling a story based on the Tarahumara/Rarámuri mythology, a not-so-well-known mythology that deserves to be praised and cherished. The argument, in just a few words, tells the journey of Mulaka, a shaman with a pure soul, that uses the powers of the semi-gods to save his people from the demon Terégori, whose power emanates from the human corruption.      

The story and narrative are simple, so they are easy to follow and provide clear objectives and consistent goals. In regard of the game aesthetic, Mulaka looks like a videogame from the era of polygons —when these were used to create the illusion of 3D, so the 90’s or early 2000’s. Granted, it is a little bit more refined, but it is still evident that the team tried to take advantage of the “hipster” aesthetics to hide the fact that they budget was not big enough to adjust to new styles and designs found in similar videogames— I still think they could have managed to deliver a nicer product despite the budget restrictions, though. In any case, the spaces are interesting, even if they are limited, and the places that depict the Tarahumara/Rarámuri architecture are uniquely beautiful.

The controllers are easy to learn, and something I loved was that you are really fast and do not get tired: sometimes, the realistic stamina and speed system frustrates me, particularly in big or monotonous spaces. The mechanics are added little by little, and they allow you to return to earlier stages and acquire previously unobtainable objects. These little challenges are not hard, but they give you some satisfaction and create the illusion of a bigger world. The level design is basic, and the main goal in all of them is the same: find the three stones/keys necessary to continue to the next level.  

This is an enjoyable game; however, the introductory level was boring and plain, which almost discouraged me to continue playing. I think it is a “cute” game, but its virtues do not live up to the hype nor the promises made by national (Mexican) media. In this sense, I think its score on Steam (9/10) is unfair to other games. In my opinion, Mulaka deserves a 7.5/10. Maybe the last levels by their own would deserve an 8/10 at the most.

In general, I do not look up into the biography of the creators when I play a videogame just for fun, but this time I did it because it was made in my country. What I found should not demerit the final product; nevertheless, it made me enjoy it less. Googling Lienzo, Mulaka’s production studio, I found that one of the main elements of their team was accused of sexual harassment and extorsion.

Taking that aside, my conclusion is that Mulaka is a “cute” videogame that, even if it does not live up to the expectations, they managed to build through an amazing marketing campaign, it manages to be fun and entertaining after the introductory level. In my opinion, Mulaka has evident technical and design deficiencies —problems in the aesthetic, level, and mechanic design—that could have been corrected despite their relatively restricted budget.

Besides, sometimes the game looks more like an educative videogame than an artistic or entertainment-oriented one, which is not bad, but the advertising approach could be misleading or deceiving. This videogame could easily be part of a school curriculum since it does present the main characteristics of the Tarahumara/Rarámuri people and mythology effectively. In that regard, I did learn a lot of things in an entertaining and playful way. Therefore, I do recommend it, but you have to keep in mind that this game will not change your life. As I already mentioned, this game deserves a 7.5/10, so I would not buy it without a discount.

Note: Honestly, I could not even remember the ending, which serves as proof that this is not a transcendental game.

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Featured image taken from Nintendo.

3 replies on “Mulaka: A “Cute” Game”

It’s been a while since I played it, but I remember enjoying it for what it was. I totally agree on the 7.5 rating, but I would like to add that it’s short enough so that it doesn’t become boring (being short is another reason to buy it on discount). However, I did learn some time after playing it that the whole marketing campaign was a lie… it’s not even the first big mexican video game.

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I totally agree with you! The game is enjoyable “for what it is”, but it is nothing out of this world.

The marketing strategy was great and bad at the same time:
– It was incredibly well managed to sell Mulaka like fresh bread (the group leaders studied at the Tec de Monterrey, which is a great university for studying marketing, so it makes sense);
– However, it was also bad because people can get discouraged to buy more of their products if they find their campaign to be a lie after playing their videogame (like I did). IMO, it is terrible when they sell a product for what they planned it to be instead for what it actually ended up being.

I know they needed to make money, but being more transparent about Mulaka’s weaknesses could have had improved my final opinion about it. It would have had not changed my actual opinion of the game, but I may have been like: “Let’s support new studios and the Mexican videogame industry! Lienzo is trying hard! They know that they are not perfect, but they have potential, so let’s help them grow!”

But no… they had to lie and go for “fast money” feeded by misleading claims instead of going for a “steady money influx” feeded by socially-aware players. Lienzo should not repeat this in the future… I may give them a second chance because, in the end, I did like Mulaka, but I would only buy their next videogame if it is on sale and if they do not go for a “let’s-over-inflate-the-hype-even-if-we-know-we-can’t-keep-our-promises!” campaign.

Anyway, I wanna play more videogames about Mexican culture and mythology! Our heritage is so under-exploited (at least by the videogame industry).

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