Photography games have become a growing but still incredibly niche sector of the gaming world. With the advent of photo mode in games, it seems right that the genre is growing legs but to compete, it has to offer something wonderful. Enter Beasts of Maravilla Island, a peaceful and tranquil island for you to explore at your own pace. It wants you to harness your imagination and it has creatures for you to discover.
Playing as a teen girl who doesn’t seem to believe in magic anymore, she arrives on the island to discover the magical beasts of Maravilla Island are starting to run into trouble. The story isn’t the main thrust of the game. Instead, you are led down almost entirely linear paths into showcase areas with a variety of different creatures to photograph. Birds will fly around, other creatures will hide and some might need photos taken when they are doing certain things. You can whistle call them as a playful back and forth to get them to perform those actions but aside from that, you are an outside observer. It is a curious decision because initially, I wondered if I’d be bored being so hands-off but then I found the voyeur side of things fascinating. That is down to the photography.
Your camera is literally a point and shoot camera. You can zoom in and out and flip it around for the fun selfie mode (complete with facial expressions to choose from). It is simple, easy, free of jargon and intuitive. Your photos then go into your diary and you can keep up to 20 photos of each animal type. Flip through them, discard them, get artsy with angles or just photo the scenery instead – it is all up to you. I found myself wanting to get birds flocking together in flight or several animals in the same shot. Patience and timing are key – the animals do their own thing if you leave them be.
Outside of photos, the puzzles are extremely simple and easy to complete and aside from a not-really-a-boss boss battle finale, you aren’t in peril either. It is a very chilled and relaxed experience and when it looks and sounds so vibrant and beautiful, I didn’t want to rush. That’s just as well as the game is only 2.5 hours long. Admittedly, that is the quickest way to get through and discover all the animals as you go but it did feel one level too short (it has 3 large areas to roam). Each area has about 30-40 different species of animal to find and photograph so if you don’t spot them all the first time, you can dive in via chapter select. There is plenty of replayability even when you have found them all so long as you get hooked onto the photography element as I did. I wanted my diary to be full of great photos.
It is rare that I feel so compelled to play a game in a single sitting, so late at night and utterly enjoy every single second I played. Beasts of Maravilla Island did just that and scratched the photography game itch I never knew I had. The perfect way to start with the genre and full of charm and whimsy, this is a wholesome experience I’ll be returning to again and again.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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