Mutazione Review: In A Mutant Country Garden

The kind of game that has to be experienced than simply played, Mutazione is a charming story that puts us back in touch with our roots. Literally.

Mutazione is not a game designed to be reviewed. That is, it shouldn’t be rushed, and instead experienced. It’s an unusual one from Die Gute Fabrik and Akupara Games (The Darkside Detective 2), and by unusual: great.

Visually, it’s fair to say this is a blend of Forgotten Fields and Sumatra: Fate Of Yandi, but with the quirkiness of Minute Of Islands. It’s a point and click adventure where you play Kai, who has been sent to visit her grandfather on his deathbed.

Not the jolliest of premises, but Mutazione is lovely. From the heartwarming characters to the timeless feel of this lush biome, you’ll never have wanted to understand more about plants since that first time you tried weed. Don’t worry; I won’t tell anyone.

Mutazione Review – Nintendo Switch

Her grandfather lives on a remote island, the game’s title, where the inhabitants were mutated. It’s nothing grotesque – the complete opposite – like those cartoon illustrations you’d see on health food packaging for kids. The locals are all charming, so super friendly, and despite the initial oddities, the island feels surprisingly normal.

Mutazione Review - Oxenfree intro
Oxenfree intro. Source: Steam

Without giving too much away, it transpires that Kai’s grandfather is quite a revered shaman and responsible for the island’s plant life. In turn, these plants play a crucial role in the island’s ecosystem, and with him being ill, the flora and fauna are suffering.

Cue some convincing Kai to fulfil the rule and echoing PaRappa the Rappa – she’s just gotta believe

Perhaps your own grandparents have told you about talking to the plants or playing them music to help them grow? Well, that’s what Kai’s job is as you plant similar types of vegetation together then play music to help it grow.

It’s very much like Spiritfarer and just so indulgent and makes a change from going up against timers or battling nasties. There’s something timeless about the experience on Mutazione, and perhaps that comes from how natural it feels engaging with the inhabitants.

Come Find Yourself

The game is broken up into five chapters that spread across the week. Kai will run errands throughout various parts of the days and among these sidequests, interact with the locals. It isn’t mandatory to do so, but it just feels so natural. These conversations won’t necessarily explain how to complete a task, but a character’s backstory, or perhaps a little gossip without it being malicious.

Mutazione Review - Jelly
Jelly! Source: Steam

Despite the relative simplicity, it took me a bit of time to get adjusted to island life. This was mainly because the Switch’s screen isn’t cluttered with an overcomplicated HUD. Besides, a few arrows informing you can cut through a path or head into a cave, there’s not much indication on what or where to go.

Yes, you could just listen to the characters and work it out, but sometimes you need a pointer. In the menu system, you’ll have a list of objectives written in Kai’s hand as if taking notes. This is a godsend as once you start referring to it, never in a position where you aren’t sure of what to do. But perhaps the greatest insight in this menu system is your encyclopedia.

Gardener’s World

The encyclopedia is a handmade book about the mutated flora and fauna located on Mutazione. Much like Little Mouse’s Encyclopedia, it becomes further indulgent and, depending on your character, motivates you to appreciate nature more. While Mutazione is a very thoughtful narrative, it’s not a preachy title at all, but I find it uplifting when a game inspires me outside of playing it.

Emphasis again on this game about the experience than playing for the sake of it. Mutazione isn’t a challenging, demanding game, but it does deserve your undivided attention. Maybe that could be the little bits and pieces fed to you from the locals, or perhaps it’s because it’s such a unique tale that, like music, soothes the savage beast. Quoting from Offspring’s Smash album.

Mutazione Review - Treehouse
Treehouse. Source: Steam

A note on music, when Mutazione was released on the Nintendo Switch, there was a news piece about the upcoming soundtrack. Having not played the game at that point, I was expecting a quirky, upbeat score, but it’s more chill than that. In fact, the soundtrack is so good throughout; it should go on a pedestal with Oxenfree (one of the best soundtracks in a game, in my humble opinion).

In summary, there are no risks of failing in this game. It’s all about the interactions and tending to your gardens and relationships. What I would say is it is possible to miss out on some conversations. Referring back to the journal, you may find blanks in-between notes that are unfulfilled if you haven’t engaged in a particular discussion. The solution? Speak to everyone! It really is all part of the experience.

Mutazione Review Summary

Pros

  • Beautiful characters and understated histories.
  • Charming visuals.
  • Fantastic soundtrack that is great as a standalone too.
  • No pressures of timers, deaths or achievements.

Cons

  • The sleepy pace won’t be for everyone.
  • Dialogue options don’t feel like they add much.

Mutazione is in the same league as Before Your EyesSpiritfarer and other similar titles that focus on the simple yet most important things in life: interacting with others, community, growth… I didn’t want this review to be foolish for the sake of it. Likewise, it wasn’t the goal to be corny either. Let’s just say that Mutazione is an essential title.

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