Beasts of Maravilla Island
Gameplay 7
Graphics 8
Sound 8

Beasts of Maravilla Island is a short but sweet game where players must explore beautiful environments while taking photos of exotic creatures. There are some puzzles to solve, but overall the game is very easy and accessible. Although it has a few rough edges, it is hard not to be charmed by the imaginative creature designs and magical atmosphere.

Gameplay: Not much of a challenge, but it is fun to take photos while exploring.

Graphics: A few rough edges here and there, but very charming overall.

Sound: The soundtrack and effects are great

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Beasts of Maravilla Island

Developer: Young Horses | Publisher: Young Horses | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Action / Adventure / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Beasts of Maravilla Island opens with the protagonist, Marina Montez, arriving on the titular island by boat. The young aspiring wildlife photographer is armed only with her grandfather’s journal of the island and his camera. Her goal is to restore humanity’s belief in the magical by photographing all the mysterious creatures on the island. By doing so, she hopes to restore the protective magic of Maravilla Island that is waning.

Beasts of Maravilla Island takes the form of a 3D adventure aimed at players searching for a casual, non-violent game. Marina can travel through three very different as she photographs everything from butterflies and birds to bugs, plants, and more. Marina is never in any danger of getting hurt, and the linear environments also ensure that she can’t get lost. A few puzzles have to be solved to reach certain areas or get certain shots, but overall, the game is very child-friendly.

As players explore the 3D environments, they will find their surroundings teeming with life. There are over 50 different creatures and plants to photograph, so there will be something interesting to see no matter where you look. Each area has a “special” creature such as a group of Bird Monkeys or an Otter Crocodile that needs to be photographed in different poses. It is up to players to figure out how to elicit these poses from the adorable creatures. It can be as easy as whistling at them, but sometimes some mild puzzle solving might also be required to coax specific behaviors out of them. Achievements can be earned for photographing all the other critters and plants on the list, but these do not appear to be essential for moving on to the next area. Thankfully, the game will warn players if they are about to stray into the next area, giving them the option to stick around a little longer and capture any photos that they have missed. It is easy to backtrack in search of overlooked critters, and the game also has a chapter select option after completing the main story.

Unlike other photography games, such as the Pokémon Snap series, BoMI allows players to roam freely instead of being on rails. Although the levels are not that large and your path through them fairly linear, it is nice to traverse them at your own pace.

The game also does not have any ratings or criteria for the photos you take. As long as there is something in the shot, it will count even if you don’t have the best angle or composition. Players can take multiple pictures of the same things and select their favorite ones, so the curation of your photo album is entirely up to you. There’s even space in the album for “landscape” photos that don’t feature any critters as well as selfies. The latter allows Marina to get her own face in the shot, and players can even choose an expression for her.

Photographing things in BoMI is as easy as switching to the photo mode and pointing the camera at your target in first-person mode. Players can adjust the zoom level of the photo and move around in first person to get a better angle of their shot. It’s impossible to take blurry photos, so there’s no need to worry about things like focus or aperture. The camera even shows the names of things you have already photographed when you point the lens at them, so you don’t waste time taking unnecessary shots.

In addition to taking photos, there are also some areas where Marina has to jump across things or climb up things to get where she needs to be. The game automatically causes Marina to jump in appropriate spots or grab onto climbable objects. It can be a little too eager in this regard, though, and we’ve had instances of Marina latching on to things when we simply wanted her to walk past them. Some of the puzzles in the game are creative but not very difficult to figure out. For example, you might have to lure a snail creature with a reflective shell to the right spot for redirecting a light beam using fruit to make it follow you. We would have liked to see more puzzles as the game is relatively short, and it is easy to breeze through all the photo-taking objectives.

Beasts of Maravilla Island is a good-looking game, but it doesn’t have many visual options to tweak. Players can only change the resolution, enable fullscreen, set VSync on and off and choose a framerate of 30 or 60. Some of the visual elements, such as Marina’s climbing animations, could use a bit more polish, but the creature designs in the game are excellent. We also love the beautiful illustrations in the journal Marina carries. The audio is good too, but the game only features limited voice acting. The music is quite pleasant, and there’s plenty of sound effects and ambient noises to make the different biomes feel like all kinds of creatures inhabit them. BoMI can be played with a keyboard and mouse or a controller, but we favored the latter due to an issue with the mouse when using a multi-monitor setup. This is something that the developers are aware of and should fix in an update. Overall, the controls are straightforward, and not much hand-eye coordination is required to explore and take photos.

In total, it took us about three hours to explore all three of the environments in the game and unlock the 31 Achievements on offer. While this is relatively short, the overall experience was very pleasant and relaxing. It also never feels like the game is padding things out or overstaying its welcome. If the game were sold at full price, the length would have been more of an issue, but as it is, the developers have opted to make it very affordable, which is appreciated. Beasts of Maravilla Island is not the most polished or in-depth game on the market, but it does offer a charming and relaxing experience. Simply walking around and soaking up the atmosphere while basking in the pretty visuals is a great way to unwind. Younger games will also appreciate the lack of obstacles and frustrations.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7/8/10 (64-bit OS required)
  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 @ 2.4 GHz, AMD FX 8120 @ 3.1 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GT 630 / 650m, AMD Radeon HD6570 or equivalent
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 4 GB available space
  • Sound Card: 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card
  • OS: Windows 8/10 (64-bit OS required)
  • Processor: Intel i7 920 @ 2.7 GHz, AMD Phenom II 945 @ 3.0 GHz
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GTX 660, Radeon R9-270
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 4 GB available space
  • Sound Card: 100% DirectX 9.0c compatible sound card

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