REVIEW: Beasts of Maravilla Island
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REVIEW: Beasts of Maravilla Island

Beasts of Maravilla Island accompanies Marina on her journey to a magical haven. Explore the island, take pictures of and read about its fantastic creatures and vegetation as more and more about the girl’s grandfather’s visit is revealed.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player
Genre: Exploration, Casual
Developer: Banana Bird Studios, LLC
Publisher: Whitethorn Digital
Release date: 12 June, 2021

Navigation

Pros and cons
The plot
Gameplay
Visuals and audio
Other bugs and problems
Verdict

Pros and cons

Pros

✓ There has been a lot of research behind the anatomy of critters, resulting in convincing designs.
✓ The exploration is overall enjoyable and the game is worth being played more than once.

Cons

✗ Idle positions and animations of some animals make them feel inorganic.
✗ One of the featured zones is extremely bright, with no settings to tone it down.

The plot

The player gets into Marina’s shoes: a young girl of hispanic origins trying to reconnect with her late grandfather. She grasps on her memories of the tales of his travels, documented in the journal she inherited. They all focus around a mythical uncharted island, full of magic and fantastic animals. She’s skeptical at the prospect of this marvelous place being real, but decides to sail anyway.

And so, as she spots a banana bird a swarm of seagulls, her adventure begins. Along the way she encounters much more incredible creatures, with a few of them being much more imposing than others. In the end Marina reconnects on a spiritual level with her grandfather and manages to succeed where he previously failed.

Smile, banana birds 🙂

Gameplay

Marina explores the island with awe and curiosity. She feels the need to share this wondrous experience with the world and so she arms herself with a photocamera: it is possible to take both pictures of just the environments and selfies.

The creatures and plants are divided into categories, such as butterflies or bats. Once all the critters of the same type have their picture taken, a goal from a checklist in the journal is completed. Additionally, each biome has a main animal inhabiting it, which displays a few specific behaviours, each of them described in the notes and waiting to be documented with a picture.

Through whistling it’s possible to trigger interactions from these creatures, helping with some more particular shots. It’s worth mentioning that it is not obligatory to complete any of these objectives to finish the game, nor do they influence in any way the ending.

Her path might be sometimes interrupted and needing a flash of assistance, with the photo-reactive plants – mechanisms that unlock further passage. In other instances Marina might have to climb on the vines, crouch under a trunk or hop through what resembles giant amazonian lily pads.

There is, perhaps twice, a little puzzle that has to be completed to progress. Let’s call it the snail puzzle. The player has to move an apple to the little snail bed and the animal will follow, reflecting light in the direction of the reactive flowers. This however is the most bugged part of the game, with the gemmed gastropode moving in ominous ways. As soon as the player drops the apple, the critter darts towards them and rotates in an unnatural manner.

It is impossible to travel back through other biomes unless all the game is completed.

That’s just pollen!

Visuals and audio

I have little to no complaints regarding the art and graphics of the game. The cutscenes are digitally painted by someone who clearly knows their craft, the animal models are well-made, with the movements being fairly smooth.

Although the creatures and plants have had actual research behind them and have their own animation and roles to play on the levels, at times they behave in a somewhat artificial, planned way, like animatronics that have been programmed to perform actions in a tourist attraction. This uncanny feeling is much stronger in what is an important animal character, as its movements seem all intentional and somewhat fail to make it feel alive.

There are four different biomes in the game and all of them have unique plants and animals. Some of them are recolored, however each zone feels very much different than the others. It’s unfortunate that the player will probably run through the first one and by time they finished this adventure, will forget it ever existed to begin with. It’s worth mentioning how the bioluminescent aesthetic of one particular zone makes everything very bright, without an in-game option to lower the brightness or gamma: I couldn’t wait to be done with that part.

Another flaw is that sometimes these environments lack some attention to detail that would make them much more immersive. While there is a large variety of plants and they’re arranged with care, there still is some lack of simpler vegetation, like grass and mosses that would normally grow in crevices. This lack of proper encapsulation of a biome would be most visible in the surroundings of the final, open zone. They feel like a void surrounding an unfinished map. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the last zone the most, simply because it featured some creatures I’m fond of, such as bumblebees and birds of prey.

The soundtrack is simple and repetitive, with an ambient feel to it. It’s not very memorable, as it’s composed of a soothing melody mixed with the sounds of critters surrounding Marina. However the additional sound effects make so that it’s not really enjoyable. As I was struggling to figure out how to complete one of the snail puzzles I found myself removing my headphones, as the constant tinkle combined with my frustration resulted in being very annoying.

Otters: mammals or reptiles?

Other bugs and problems

Since I first played the game a lot of issues have been fixed. The most relevant problem I experienced and that is not present anymore was the cursor not being locked to the game window and going all the way to the adjacent monitor. As I see this and many other bugs I wasn’t even aware of being fixed, I think there is a lot of dedication on the developer team’s part.

Specs of the computer used:
Intel(R) Core(TM) i7 4820K
16 GB RAM
NVIDIA GeForce 1080

Verdict

While my experience swung between a childlike curiosity and being unconvinced, I think I can see myself coming back to the title, trying to find the spots and creatures I might have left unexplored, even if there aren’t many of those. The game is pretty short, one and half an hour are enough for an almost perfect run. I think people who’d enjoy this game best are those who love animals and walks in the nature, as it felt like a deep dive in the unknown, with almost no dangers at all.

Written by
Hirundo
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