Beasts of Maravilla Island (Switch, PC)

Boy do I love me some New Pokémon Snap!  I even named it my Game of the Year SO FAR recently.  It’s just so much fun taking pictures of Pokémon.  But what if I told you there was another game where you get to take pictures of mythical creatures, but instead of being on-rails, you’re free to move around in 3-D space!  Well that’s exactly what you get to do in Beasts of Maravilla Island.  In the game you play as Marina, a young woman who was told fantastical stories of a magical island with one of a kind creatures by her grandfather.  When her grandfather passes away, she inherits his camera and journal, with his dying wish for her to photograph the creatures on this island to prove to the world that it exists.  So now she’s off on an expedition in this 3-D photography game that takes elements from titles like Pokémon Snap and the photo mini-games in Beyond Good and Evil.  It’s available to play on Nintendo Switch and PC, but reviewed on Switch here.

In the game you’ll move around Marina in 3-D space.  She’ll automatically jump if needed, but you can make her whistle to get animals’ attention, and pull out your journal.  Sometimes she can do context sensitive actions like pick up objects and climb vines.  When you’re ready to snap a photo of something, just pull out your camera with the L trigger button and snap away.  In each area you’ll be tasked to fill certain objectives, but luckily you don’t have to do ALL of them to reach the next area.  Which is good because it can be tedious to photograph all the plants, bugs, and other things since many of them look the same.

You’ll explore different areas like treetop jungles, glowing forests, and rocky deserts.  In each area, Marina will take a liking to a certain animal, such as the playful bird monkeys or mischievous Otterdiles.  So another set of objectives is to photograph four different behaviors of these animals.  By reading your grandfather’s journal, you’ll learn clues as to how to activate these behaviors.  You might also have to do some light puzzle solving with your camera and other skills to progress.  For instance, there are certain flowers that emit light when exposed to it, so you must take a flash picture of these flowers and they’ll shine light on things like beanstalks that grow when shined on, and then you can climb them!

This game has a lot of neat ideas, but it could’ve really used some spit-shine and polish to really make it great.  For instance, it’s kind of hard to read the journal in handheld mode on the Switch.  I would’ve really liked to have had a zoom feature for that.  Also, sometimes goals and objectives are a little unclear.  But usually if you follow your nose you’ll get there eventually.  Plus the game is a bit buggy and sometimes I would get stuck jumping on a lily pad or something.  Luckily you can save at any time.  And normally I don’t complain about the graphics, but here they look like something from the PS2 and N64 era and the framerate is very choppy.  And sometimes things can really blend into the background and make it hard to see them.  I would’ve like to have had the flowers that shine light stand out more, since it’s always necessary for you to photograph them to proceed.  But if you enjoy games like New Pokémon Snap and the photography parts of Beyond Good and Evil, then you may want to check this one out anyway.

Kid Factor:

Nothing violent or objectionable here.  Reading skill is a must for the text, but there is another skill needed that you may not think about.  The journal you use is written entirely in cursive, and since I don’t think they teach kids cursive writing in schools anymore, they may have trouble reading it, too.  Granted, this is the neatest and most consistent cursive writing I’ve ever seen, but even I had trouble making some of it out because it was so small in handheld mode.  Just makes me wonder if they should still teach cursive in school.  Even though it’s not usually necessary to write it anymore, kids may need that skill in the future to read important historical documents like, you know, the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Just something to think about.  Beasts of Maravilla Island is rated E for Everyone.

2 Responses to “Beasts of Maravilla Island (Switch, PC)”

  1. it’s definitely an interesting genre, and it would be cool to see more developers do things with it.

  2. Neato me want to playo.

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