By that description, you’ve probably guessed Mutazione isn’t quite the all-out in-depth experience as some of those other games I could have played this weekend. But its commitment to melancholy and quietness, both in its audio design and its overall tone, that led to a meditative experience d as I explore the island.
Mutazione is a dialogue-heavy game — Kai’s day is split up into several different sections, and normally, in order to progress, I have to engage in a few conversations with various Mutazione denizens based on the goings-on of their lives. Walking around the island, I’ll hop from the local bar, run by another mainlander who’s taken up residence in the home, check on Claire, who runs the inventory of the island, or visit Miu, my literally cat-like friend, and listen to some jams at her place.
All throughout, I’m engaging in conversations, choosing dialogue options to twinge Kai with a hopeful, positive earnestness rather than an aloof standoffishness. And what I’ve noticed in the three or so days Kai has spent on the island (roughly a real-world hour per day), I’ve come to realize the beautiful undercurrent of Mutazione’s writing. Each character is imbued with a distinct voice, but there’s an overarching sadness to their lives. But, Mutazione so smartly doesn’t make that sadness solely about the fact that they are “mutants” in the eyes of “normal” people.While that juxtaposition is at play, and Kai is a good-natured enough person to not let those physical differences play into any sort of prejudice, it’s the more normal, and often tragic, problems that have drawn me to this group. Several of Mutazione’s citizens are dealing with deaths and the grieving process, for example. Another is contemplating her marriage and how secrets could affect her relationship. These are the very real, and very sad, problems plaguing the Mutazione that gripped me.
Some of that exploration employs Mutazione’s gardening mechanic — without spoiling its implications, there is a literal musicality to growing gardens. In the end, it’s rather simplistic and occasionally feels like filler in the moment. But it often leads to more beautiful character moments, and those have consistently kept me interested in finding out where Mutazione’s overall mysteries lead.And all of that exploration is slow, quiet, and rather peaceful. Kai’s run speed is not going to break the sound barrier But I’ve enjoyed it so much. I still have a few hours to go in Mutazione, and while it quite possibly could end in some larger-scale setpiece, I love spending an hour or two at a time just getting to know a few characters, learning about their problems, and helping when I can. It’s such a nice, calming experience that I don’t necessarily get enough of in games.
I love big, guns-out experiences, and fully expect to be playing many of this fall’s biggest in the weeks to come. But Mutazione has been a beautiful reprieve among the already busy fall gaming season. It’s nice to be able to take a minute, breathe, and see if Tung needs me to fetch him any paint for his boat.
Jonathon Dornbush is IGN’s Senior News Editor, host of Podcast Beyond!, and resident Kingdom Hearts fan. Talk to him on Twitter if you’re playing Mutazione, or any of the other games he mentioned, @jmdornbush.