Mutazione touched me in a specific way that very few games have. It’s a soothing title, one that asked me to grow flowers and cultivate relationships. Having been announced all the way back in 2013, developer Die Gute Fabrik (which is German for “the good factory”) has walked a long road to bring the game to PS4. These years have evidently paid off, as every facet of Mutazione reflects a calculated thoughtfulness I found enriching.
In Mutazione, you play as Kai, a young girl who has come to an elusive island to care for her grandfather in his final days. The island suffered a catastrophic meteor known as the “Moon Dragon” that crashed into it. Killing most of the people who lived there, while leaving the survivors with bizarre mutations. Hence the name of the island, Mutazione. She’s the first outsider in 20 years, and she finds a rich history and mystery to the island. One that she slowly uncovers through her explorations.
Mutazione, an island of friends and mystery
On Mutazione, you control Kai to do a variety of tasks. You keep track of these tasks and the various story beats through Kai’s journal. I found it amusing that the internal thoughts of Kai are kept in the journal as well. They flesh out the more personal inner-workings of Kai and the commentary remained humorous. The choice between which story threads I wanted to pull and which relationships I wanted to unfold was always engaging.
The art-direction in Mutazione is breathtaking. Utilizing a palette of colors that make the hand-drawn aesthetic pop, the overgrown town is enchanting. You move around in a 3D plane despite the world looking flat, and the game’s overall use of perspective was visually appealing and easy on the eyes. The sound-design also has this minimalist approach that adds to an ambient collection of sounds that bring about a lively atmosphere of wildlife.
The characterization in Mutazione is the pillar I found the strongest. Characters grow into layers at a gradual pace, much like the flowers you plant in your garden. From the beginning of the game, the long-form approach taken to the writing is engrossing. Apart from this exposition, you learn a great deal about the personality and inner-working of characters through intricate details. As the drama and gossip you encounter flesh out the ensemble even more. One of the details I cherished most came from earlier in the game.
Kai’s grandfather isn’t able to tell you much about himself, mostly due to being bed-ridden. You eventually find an encyclopedia penned by him of the flora he observed, and learn that he had come to the island as a scientist. From reading the preface though, you read that Kai’s grandfather had his outlook transformed by the botany and nature of the island.
A soothing palette-cleanser
There was also one time that I was swimming with Miu, and she expressed to me her concerns about body image. How, as a person who was mutated and looks vaguely like a humanoid cat, she doesn’t know what she needs to look like. These moments were the emotional core of the game’s overall story, and are densely placed in the game’s four-hour playtime.
While it may be less exciting than the other games coming to the PS4, Mutazione is a soothing palette-cleanser you can complete in an afternoon. It’s a quiet and meditative game, whose slower pace allowed payoffs that I found deeply satisfying. I never found any corner of the island (or game) of Mutazione to be hollow. Whether among its visuals, writing, and audio; I was constantly engrossed despite its more laid-back approach to overall game design. Mutazione exudes a contemplative warmth that very few games do, and if you’re looking for something to ease yourself into Fall then look no further.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
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