The Magic of Mutazione
Community and Nature in a time of Quarantine
May 1, 2020 at 9:00 am
A few months ago, I was browsing itch.io and saw that a game called Mutazione was on sale. Since I am easily lured in by bargains, I purchased it and started playing it during my free time. Little did I know that Mutazione would be the most beautiful game that I had seen in a long time, both in terms of visuals and story. I played the game in small segments at a time and found that my time with it was the most relaxing part of my day. Mutazione is a comfort that a lot of people can use during difficult times. Now, during a time of isolation and anxiety I want to return to this game that gave me a lot of peace of mind.
Mutazione is a narrative-based game that follows a young woman named Kai who is visiting the island of Mutazione in order to take care of her sick grandpa. The island was hit by a meteor that caused the inhabitants to develop mutated qualities. Mutazione’s story focuses on how Kai navigates her relationship with her grandpa, the community, and the island itself.
The graphics are simplistic yet beautiful. Walking through the tropical forests and mysterious ruins of Mutazione is enchanting, and the game’s beautiful scenery often left me speechless. The game achieves a wonderful atmosphere through both the visuals and audio, with a backing soundtrack that feels perfect for this magical adventure. The soundtrack itself won the Excellence in Audio Award at the Independent Games Festival Awards. Music itself plays a big part of the story, as one of Mutazione’s main mechanics involves creating unique musical gardens that help bring life back to the island.
One of Mutazione’s strongest points is its great cast of lovable characters that really feel like a close-knit community. The unique character designs and dialogue all draw the player into the story, with the townsfolk ranging from normal looking people to a large sentient jello creature. One of my personal favorites, Mori the town gossip, looks like a kind green grandmother and is always in other people’s business. I religiously visited her in the afternoon to get a meal and listen to her talk about the other islanders.
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Throughout the game, you see how each character deals with loss, relationships, and family in their own unique ways. For example, one of the islanders you meet is your mother’s childhood friend, Claire, who operates the town inventory and struggles with her feelings for the local barkeep. You also become acquainted with Claire’s son and mother, so you see how three generations of the same family deal with their relationships and place on the island.
In an interview with Gamasutra, one of Mutazione’s game developers, Hannah Nicklin, talked about how the narrative was inspired by the soap opera genre. She said, “I think that ‘soap opera’ is a super useful means of thinking about ensemble cast storytelling, which feels broad as well as deep – a full world of characters with lives, loves, and long held grudges, each episode the tip of an iceberg.” This strategy worked because I found myself enraptured with the drama of unrequited love, breakups, and death. It is very easy to get invested in the lives of the islanders and it’s one of the driving forces of the game.
Mutazione is broken up into segments of the day, morning, afternoon, evening, etc. Throughout the day, the characters follow their own kind of set routine and it’s up to the player to look for them and interact with them if they want to see elements of each character’s story. As a player, it makes you feel as if you’re stepping onto an island that already existed before you and functions without you. It really makes the community seem like it has a life of its own.
Nicklin talks about the unique narrative style by saying, “I thread just enough of it through the main story to make everything make sense, but make it rewarding to explore the details and depths, which hopefully makes the other characters not just engaging in and of themselves, but part of the breadth of the storytelling. A story about a community, told by exploring it.” I quickly became acquainted with the routines of the townsfolk and found myself checking in on them everyday in order to keep up with every character’s unique storylines. As an outsider looking in, it does feel very fulfilling to slowly get closer to each character since it feels like you are becoming a part of Mutazione.
This game does have a slower pace, which adds to the relaxing vibe it gives off. I found myself playing it before bed, wandering through the forests collecting plants and talking to the islanders to find out what drama was troubling them today. It wasn’t difficult to become engrossed with the story, but also the sense of nature and community — something I know a lot of people could use right now.
If you’re looking for a relaxing game to play or you miss nature, then Mutazione may be the right fit for you. If you also need a kind, uplifting story right now I would highly recommend this game. Mutazione is available on PC, The Apple Arcade, and PS4.