Mutazione, developed by De Gute Fabrik and released in 2019 for modern platforms, is a quaintly enjoyable point-and-click adventure game whose enjoyment depends entirely on the player’s patience and mindset. The game follows the exploits of a young girl named Kai who travels to an isolated and mutated island village in order to meet her estranged grandfather before he succumbs to mortality. But despite the seemingly exotic hook, the narrative is relatively chill and lowkey. The small number of Mutazione inhabitants are shockingly friendly and welcoming individuals, inviting Kai to explore the island at her own pace while she completes tasks for her frustratingly vague grandpa, Nonno. Gameplay is essentially non-existent — there are no fail states, time limits, or other pressures put on the player. Instead, they’re encouraged to simply wander the island and talk with the characters, learning more about them as well as the larger plot. Even conversations include minimal interaction — often the player is forced to choose between two dialogue choices, but without consequences for either option, they serve only to alter the story on a surface level. This inherent lack of responsibility means that Mutazione is intended for a very specific type of player — one who is willing to sit back and experience a story being told to them, only progressing as told. This is not meant to be a negative comment on the game, as strict storytelling is sometimes the only way to deliver an engaging narrative. But it does mean that I was never quite consumed by the drive to continue my adventure, as I didn’t feel connected as a player. It’s fortunate, then, that the characters are so lovely.
There’s only about 10 main characters, and each is visually and emotionally distinct. Despite constantly bickering and displaying their own flaws, I couldn’t help but love each of them dearly. The game bills itself as a “mutant soap opera”, and that’s immediately apparent upon playing. Kai reflects the player in that she doesn’t solve their personal issues or relationships; she merely observes and provides support as they struggle to find a balance in their own lives. It feels more realistic than my game narratives, as the mini stories feel like snapshots of larger lives that the player will never know. This is reinforced through the fact that the story is only 5 or so hours long, and they’re really just isn’t time to see every plotline to an end. It’s a shame, then, that the larger story is relatively uninteresting and underdeveloped. The mystery of the Papu tree and the fung never managed to come together into anything cohesive or satisfying. At least the game seems to understand this on some level, as the majority of it’s runtime is spent embroiled amidst the island drama.
The thin veneer of a garden-growing mechanic is tossed over the game’s pacing like a tent that was never assembled. You gather seeds as you play, and at pivotal times during the plot, you plant, organize, and sing to the seeds in order to progress. It’s deeply strange, as a fully decked-out menu and garden layout mechanic would insist that this system matters in any way, when in reality it’s entirely unimportant. Every seed the player actually needs is automatically given to them, only certain seeds can be planted in each garden, only one song matters in each garden, and harvesting the plants provides nothing of use. Besides the pretty artwork and haunting music, I’ve yet to understand what this adds to the experience?
Speaking of art, however — this game is beautiful. Thick lines and solid colors portray an abstract adobe aesthetic that feels perfect tonally. The music is similarly fitting, and composes a few moments in particular that were just breathtaking to experience. Mutazione is a sweet game, and one that I enjoyed playing during a stressful weekend. But unless peace is on your mind, I advise that you look elsewhere for entertainment, as Mutazione fails to truly enrapture the player at any point during its short campaign.