This format is a shorter, more to the point, off-shot of the normal review/op-eds I normally do. A ranking will be given at the end from a scale that starts at (from the lowest to the highest): Bad – meh – fine – good – great. Anything not appropriate for these “scores” will likely warrant a more in-depth discussion, which is what I normally do, so this range does not cover all games, just the ones that I think are suited to this format.
“Alba: A wildlife adventure” is a three-hour long, adventure and exploration game from ustwo games, known for their “Monument Valley” series. Normally I hate doing short-hand analogies for games, but Alba is different; this is essentially, wildlife snap and if you like that idea, you are surely going to love Alba. It is relentlessly wholesome and optimistic, has a great message for everyone, is serene and relaxing, as well as engaging for its short runtime. At 17 euros, some may think the price is a bit steep, however I found the overall experience so worthwhile and on point with what it wants to achieve that I would not agree with that.
Alba is about a young girl visiting her grandparents on an unspecified, Mediterranean island when things take a turn, as she saves an animal and then decides to help the wildlife of the island. The story and the writing are sparce and forgettable, but that is not the focus of the game; most of the heavy lifting is done by the visuals. I absolutely loved the minimalist style of the game and how the team created so many different biomes and picturesque scenery within this island. This is a world I wanted to explore and get lost in, and most of the story is about savoring and protecting that world, mostly done through visuals and mechanics, rather than traditional storytelling. There is something satisfying and relaxing about going to an area and cleaning the litter thrown about, so that the wildlife can return and then you get to observe and capture photographs of that wildlife and area as your reward; not only it’s the right thing to do, the team put great effort in making it look like a worthwhile achievement, and they undoubtedly succeeded at that.
In terms of mechanics, the game is surprisingly well-paced. The story takes place in the span of a week or so, but each day allows the player new tools or ways to interact with the environment, as well as new reasons to explore other areas of the island and see new wildlife and biomes. Using your phone and a journal of the wildlife, the player will want to capture every animal in that journal in order to catalog it and help the local groups to preserve life in the island. You’ll mostly use the in-game camera to capture photos, but there are a few tools that unlock along the way, a few puzzles to solve, and some animals are a lot harder to find than others. Despite that, the challenge is never above trivial, yet because of the atmosphere and brisk pace, that was never a problem for me. My one issue on this department is that some animal descriptions and hints about where to find them can be misleading, however even with wandering for a bit to find two specific animals, my playthrough clocked in at 3 hours, so its not that big of a deal. Furthermore, I want to give a shoutout to the music in the game, because a lot of the immersion and mood setting is done through it and it is really effective.
Overall, “Alba: A wildlife adventure” is a GREAT game; some will be put off by its short duration and lack of “meaningful” interactivity, but I think for 3 hours and 17 euros, you can get a wholesome, charming adventure with beautiful visuals and music, as well as brisk and always interesting activities and mechanics, all the while reminding us to take care of our environment and its inhabitants as if they were our neighbors, because they kind of are! If the troubles of last (and so far current year) are beginning to weight you down, this is a great game to give you a relaxing, three-hour long respite.