Mutazione is more of an experience than a videogame. Sure, you run around an island and interact with its inhabitants, but it’s their stories that form the crux of the title. This type of game is both a detriment and a plus. Where Mutazione falters with its gameplay, it shines with its narrative. Thankfully, that’s enough to make it worthy of a playthrough.
Be one with the island’s fauna
Gamers are thrust into Mutazione as a 15-year-old girl named Kai. She sails off to the island that is the game’s namesake to visit her grandpa, Nonno, who is dying. Once there, she encounters a community of mutated beings who survived a meteor that hit over 100 years ago. Using the knowledge she gains from these creatures regarding Mutazione’s plant life, Kai sets out to heal her ailing relative.
One area Mutazione absolutely nails is the sense of a tightknit community. There are only a handful of dwellers, but after spending time with each one, Kai gets to know their personalities and daily routines. She keeps notes in a journal detailing her interactions, with clear instructions on who she is supposed to see and when. However, I found myself running back and forth between areas I didn’t even need to be in just to talk with someone or other. Each denizen of Mutazione has a fascinating life worth exploring, and it is to the game’s credit that I couldn’t help being a part of their world.
Be one with the island’s flora
If Mutazione’s population is one of the title’s main aspects, its botany is the other. Early on, Kai will receive a book that is Nonno’s notes on the island’s flora. Finding seeds throughout the many locations will not only help Kai heal her grandpa but also Mutazione as a whole. Throughout her time on the island, Kai will learn how to grow various gardens using a variety of melodies. These yards have unique moods that must be heard to harvest Mutazione’s unique plants effectively.
What I enjoyed most about Mutazione‘s gardening feature was the sense I was helping a member of the community. Truth be told, the actual planting of seeds and helping them grow through song wasn’t special; just a few button presses and waiting was key to a successful harvest. After picking a particular plant, though, one felt a sense of accomplishment because it helped an inhabitant’s mood. Everyone in Mutazione experiences a range of emotions: anger, fear, regret, sadness, etc. Being able to help them get in touch with these feelings and understand them stirred my heart. I even got a little emotional at certain points!
What was missing
As much as I enjoyed Kai’s visit with the occupants of Mutazione, there are some drawbacks. For one, getting from place to place takes a long time. Even though Kai’s default movement is a jog (why there is a walk option is beyond me), it took ages to get from point A to point B. While your current objective is always clear, I liked to see what was happening with every person on the island. A fast travel option would have done wonders. This is a clear example of a narrative strength that is hindered by gameplay.
The conversations in Mutazione have some slight issues. The dialogue itself is topnotch and it’s always clear when you can talk to someone and if doing so will advance time. However, there were instances where a new dialogue prompt would pop up immediately after I had a discussion with a friend, sometimes more than once. It would have been better to fade in and out to indicate the passing of a few minutes instead of having me initiate a new chat (there are points where this happens, too, which is why not having this as the default is so perplexing). Also, the title saves constantly. As in, you have to be careful with your exchanges because if you accidentally leave a discussion before finding out some interesting information, you have to start the whole game over to see what you missed.
An adventure that sticks with you
Regardless of its blemishes, Mutazione is an unforgettable experience. The game oozes personality, from seeing animals eating in the foreground and background, to witnessing characters animatedly conversing with one another, to the excellent music and sound design. While it may look cute from the outside, the title is surprisingly deep and dark, dealing with a range of issues and emotions that are not easy to tackle. Mutazione manages to deal with them healthily, though, and gamers will learn valuable lessons if they see Kai through her escapades.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
An adventure about the connection between flora and fauna
Gameplay - 6/10
Story - 9/10
Visuals and sound - 8/10
Mutazione is a fascinating tale of healing held back by some odd gameplay decisions. While experiencing the locals’ lives is exhilarating, visiting them is a chore. If one can move past the title’s issues, they will realize it’s a trip worth taking.