|Developer||Banana Bird Studios|
|Genre||Indie, Puzzle, Photography Sim|
|Platforms||Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows (reviewed), Mac|
|Release Date||June 12, 2021|
When I first saw the trailer for Beasts of Maravilla Island, it struck me as a game similar to Pokemon Snap. The concept seemed to be to take pictures of fantasy wildlife doing random things and to discover new species of animals while doing it. But, that didn’t interest me… until I saw that the environments seemed interactable. According to the trailer, I could climb trees, crawl under trunks, and more. Would the trailer deliver on its seeming promise of quality? Let’s find out in our Beasts of Maravilla Island Review!
Magic: Magic is a prevailing theme throughout Beasts of Maravilla Island, but it’s more of a “sense of wonder” kind of magic than sorcery or witchcraft of any sort.
Beasts of Maravilla Island (henceforth BoMI) is a game about taking pictures of fantastical wildlife on an island your Grandfather discovered. Now that he is unable to go back to the island, it’s up to you to pick up his pursuits and photograph proof of the fantastic island’s existence.
The gameplay is what one might expect from a family-friendly camera-centric game. Grandpa left behind a journal with notes on wildlife, and when you take pictures they get catalogued into the journal. In each level, there are some animals which have unique traits and abilities which can be photographed as extra objectives. Each level also has a different environmental trait which can be used to progress and explore. For example, the first level has large flowers that sprout climbable trunks when photographed.
BoMI’s strongest feature is its beautiful environments. From the Ancient Ruins on the mountaintop to the gorgeous glowing riverscape, each level in BoMI made me stop and bask in the atmosphere at least once. It’s unfortunate that there aren’t any objectives for taking pictures of the environments themselves, as they are pretty captivating.
Of course, there’s also the animals. I enjoyed many of the animal designs in BoMI. There are birds shaped like bananas, glowing reptile/otter things, and even spiders which give me strong “praise the sun” vibes. As impressive and pretty as many of these creatures are, however, I do wish there were more of them. The levels never really felt empty, but they did feel scripted and repetitive due to how few different species appear in each level.
Once upon a time…the end!
In the beginning of the game, BoMI sets itself up as a huge, grand adventure that will take a player and connect them to the world. There’s a pretty opening animation, a bunch of mumbo jumbo about magic and imagination and such, and even a foreboding statement like “if I don’t ___ this will be a very short trip,” suggesting that there is a chance the player can actually fail at anything in this game. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for BoMI. The story begins well enough with trying to fulfill Grandpa’s dying wish, but it ultimately takes a turn for the predictable once his lost journal page is found. Even with the plot twist, the game’s story felt very short, and I found myself underwhelmed after completing the game.
Special photo ops really aren’t as observational as I thought they would be, either. I figured I would be in for a challenge when I was presented with the mechanic that animals would be doing certain special behaviors I’d have to watch out for. Instead, the animals would either be permanently doing their scripted special trait for me to capture, or all I had to do was solve a puzzle in order for the animal to portray said behavior. Every trait was pretty easy to capture, and the progress was linear. The only real way to miss an animal or special behavior was either to miss a huge pathway, misunderstand a puzzle, or intentionally ignore it.
On a more positive note, the game contains some nice extras that I enjoyed after finishing my playthrough. I was awestruck by the impressive concept art on display, and the post-game figurines looked pretty cool, too.
To conclude, although an unsatisfying and forgettable experience, BoMI was entertaining while it lasted, and it boasts some genuinely well-designed and beautiful environments and animals. The gameplay was too linear to really execute on the promises portrayed in the trailer, but much of the art and many ideas presented have the potential for a much better game if developed further down the line.
The Bottom Line
Beasts of Maravilla has great ideas and potential, but that doesn't save it from being a shallow and, ultimately, forgettable experience.