When you think of mutants, you think radiated monsters in shooter games or perhaps the X-Men superheroes, but Die Gute Fabrik offers an alternate take on the world of mutants with the aptly-titled Mutazione. This isn't about monsters at all, in fact, as it's a tale of a community of mutants, brought together by the arrival of a young girl called Kai.
At the start of the game we take a boat to the island community of Mutazione as Kai, as we've heard our grandfather is sick. Hopping aboard a boat, we take the long journey before finding a community and a world that we've never seen before, full of people that don't look like us at all. There are humans in Mutazione, but they're outnumbered by those who've been changed by an event in the past.
Mutazione requires you to explore the colourful environments, interacting with the members of this small island. Your main goal is to help your grandfather, but soon you get caught up in the everyday life of the residents within, listening to their troubles, hearing about their relationships, and slowly uncovering the story of the island, as well as the events that have shaped their identity.
You experience a sequence of days in the game, and by talking to certain people and performing certain actions you advance time. That said, you'll get most out of Mutazione by talking to everyone rather than just taking the critical path, as the game doesn't necessarily tell Kai's story, but helps her to tell the story of all of the people in this place, helping out if necessary and making friends along the way.
The island is divided into little sections that you'll be moving through all the time, perhaps even unlocking new areas, and you'll become intimately familiar with the buildings and the locations as you go. Through Kai's journal in the menu you can keep track of where you need to go at all times as well, so it's very hard to get lost, although as mentioned, being aimless can be a good thing as you take your time to see the sights.
The visual style is rather striking in Mutazione as well, as any moment can be captured into a still image and you'd be convinced it was never able to move at all. Everything is 2D, but through clever animations and moving in and out of the scenery, Die Gute Fabrik has been able to create a 3D world that's easy to get to grips with, and also looks fantastic as well.
The visual approach is colourful, but not always in a bright way. Everything is distinct and sharp in definition, and the character models are just as unique. The mutated people of the island are varied, with most still being very human in essence, and all have personal and relatable stories to tell. Themes like heartache and loss are touched upon in sensitive ways, even though text boxes are the only things that convey dialogue.
This is helped by the subtle soundtrack that underpins the experience, which you won't notice for most of the time. It's quiet enough to let the story take the forefront, and doesn't overtly dramatise the action. After all, despite their differences the people of Mutazione are a normal community, and all of the events you see could easily be happening in any town, village, or city across the world.
We've come this far without mentioning one of the most interesting points of the game though, which is the inclusion of music and its relationship with gardens. By learning and playing different songs, Kai can help certain plants to grow, which will be necessary to advance the story and get resources for others. It's a neat little idea, and while it isn't always consequential, it reinforces the ideology of Mutazione and the spiritual relationship the characters with the island.
Mutazione is the type of experience that doesn't grab you by the shoulders and whisk you up into an action-packed adventure, but it tells personal and very real stories similar to the likes of Night in the Woods. It's a touching game that makes us feel for all the characters, despite the fantastical setting, and it's definitely worth picking up for the visual style and the story. The musical gardens are just a plus.