Beasts of Maravilla Island Review (Switch)
So cute! I must take a picture!
Publisher: Whitethorn Digital
This year is a good year for those that have been craving photography games for years or just recently after playing New Pokemon Snap is seems. And the new game on the block is Beasts of Maravilla Island. Here, you play as Marina Montez who recently received a journal from her late grandfather. The journal details about a strange and magical island, dubbed as Maravilla Island by him, which seemingly only him managed to find. When Marina was a child he used to tell her about the kind of creatures that inhabited it, but as she grew up, she never thought that what he was talking about was true. But, per his wishes, she sets out to try and find the island. Marina must be either lucky or the island senses her intentions as she finds it. Everything that her grandfather told her was true and after realizing that the island might even disappear forever as no one else knows about it, she decides to take pictures of the creatures here as they are pretty unbelievable that they even exist. Along the way, she will also flip through her grandfather’s journal to see what he wrote about the creatures and his drawings.
Once Marina arrives, you soon get the goal of photographing anything and everything. You’ll be able to walk around in each of the three different, distinct areas and bring out your camera anytime you see anything you want to snap a picture of or you suspect is something new. In camera mode, anything you haven’t taken a picture of will be unknown until you do and you can zoom in or out how much you want (no instant max zoom here) as well as the height of where Marina is holding the camera. Heck, this even uses the Switch’s gyroscope feature while you’re in camera mode, which I totally didn’t expect. The only thing here is that I do wish you could get closer photos of the creatures here, as some are really cute and there are some instances where they’re even in cuter positions. You can even do selfies, with Marina having a handful of expressions for her to have. Though, you won’t be able to get creatures that are high up without barely having Marina in the frame and I do wish you could move her without getting out of selfie/camera mode if you found yourself a bit too far away from the creatures you wanted in frame.
You actually don’t have a limit on the camera’s memory, but you can only take a max of 10 photos of one subject. You can open up your photo journal and see the photos you took, as well as setting one as the main one to proudly display, or delete some. Which you might as the camera will detect something new through a rock or a tree and it’s probably best to get the picture of the actual subject in full view.
The only interaction you have, other than the camera, is Marina’s whistle. Some creatures you’ll come across will react, like by singing a tune as well and opening up their wings, but it’s mostly here for some puzzles. These puzzles will include using your camera, using your whistle, or even having a creature help you out. Like using your camera flash to open a flower that blooms when light hits it so it can then grow a huge beanstalk or whistling to get the area’s signature creature to come out. And one, which was shown in a presentation, which will need light and water which you can get by whistling by the playful Otterdile. I do wish there were more interactivity here, but it’ll be difficult to reach the level the beast that is Pokemon Snap is at for indie developers.
Anyway, each area has a few objectives you have to do, with only one being needed for you to continue. Each area has their own unique creatures that inhabit it and Marina wants to photograph and categorize them all. You don’t have to, but you can’t return to the area again unless you start a new game (which you’ll need to rewatch cutscenes). It doesn’t matter how good the photo is either, but as long as you like it, the game likes it. You will generally just run across them as you’re exploring normally, but there are some that you can miss if you happen to overlook them (I personally missed one of the birds in The Singing Jungle), but some are seriously just at the end of the area. There will also be a signature creature that Marina will be going after that requires you to get a normal shot and then multiple shots of it’s various behaviors, like when they’re singing or in their camouflage state. You’ll get opportunities to get these as you get deeper into the island and once you get all of them, they will open up the path to the next area for you.
How is the Switch performance here? Well, it’s fine for the most part with some painful areas sprinkled in. I only experienced slowdowns in areas where there were a lot going on (like on top of the huge vines that overlook The Singing Jungle). I actually didn’t experience any stutters or pauses, but the game does have a painful tendency to snap the camera all the way either behind or in front of you when you meant to only slightly turn the camera. Which can be annoying when you’re trying to look at something specific or get the camera out from behind the wall. Though, funnily enough, the only crash I had was after the credits was done.
Beasts of Maravilla Island is a short and sweet photography adventure game that managed to surprise me with the story that it had. While I do wish there were more areas and creatures to go through and photograph and the creatures here having a bit more interactivity with you, as well as Switch performance being rocky in the more busier areas, I had a good time exploring and discovering what was on Maravilla Island. And the story, like I mentioned, was a heartwarming surprise. It’s not perfect, but I do recommend it for anyone that is craving photography games still.