About a century ago, the Moon Dragon meteor crashed on the island of Mutation, with understandable effects devastating. The victims are incalculable, the side effects are unexpected: the small tropical paradise can never be the same again. But different does not always mean worse, it may simply mean ...different. According to the developers, Mutation is "a mutant soap opera in which gossip meets the supernatural" and there could be no better definition. Die Gute Fabrik paints the cross-section of an isolated village and its inhabitants, framed by a delightful artistic section. We must immediately specify that if you are looking for a title with a preponderant playful component, a graphic adventure riddled with enigmas or an interactive series in which you can change the outcome of the story with your choices, you will be disappointed. On the other hand, if the island of Mutation stimulates your curiosity and you are ready to relax and be fascinated by stories and characters that live at the turn of the eye fantasy and reality, you are in the right place. If in fact the actual "game" phases are extremely diluted (if not absent), all the rest of the experience is magnetic and bewitching right from the start.
The teenager and athletic Kai is visiting for the first time on the mysterious atoll to meet his grandfather, who is in serious health conditions. A fleeting greeting to the mother, before embarking, makes the atmosphere a little dark and it hints at a thorny and tormented family situation, although it does not give us too many clues about the triggers of these frictions. A mad sailor and a premonitory dream prepare us for the oddities in which we are about to come upon and, once we have landed on the islet, we are almost astonished by the absurd creatures that inhabit it. People with grotesque traits, anthropomorphic animals and small monsters with incomprehensible language are the order of the day on Mutation, forming a small, big family. The so funny and aberrant features of these characters are in stark contrast to the profound humanity of their personalities and their thoughts, and their wounds, as if to remind us once again how appearances can deceive. The most interesting thing, however, is that despite the afflictions, the difficulties, the sadness and the dramas (which are really so many) the game never tries to exacerbate the situations in search of a bitter suffocation or an easy tear, in short: he does not cry on himself. There balanced and light writing for this reason he manages to hit us harder and keep us kidnapped for the duration of the adventure, in addition to rendering everything, paradoxically, exceptionally credible and alive.
A great crisis is going through the lives of the islanders and the whole seems to lead back to the illness that is about to extinguish the life of our grandfather, which seems to be closely linked to the island itself. When we meet the eccentric old man we get to know his shamanic skills and the incredible effects that they can have on the rich tropical vegetation of Mutation. It almost seems like magic, but yet…
Just a few seeds, a small drum and a song to change the world, literally. In Mutation we have the possibility to collect for the game map countless types of seeds and spores, by exploring or talking to some characters at the right time. This allows us, thanks to the ability inherited from the old village chief, to be able to change the ecosystem around us, cultivating the various gardens scattered around the island. It is therefore necessary to carefully choose the vegetation and its arrangement, after which, with il right pace, we can quickly accelerate their growth and transform, in a few moments, a tiny seed into a mighty tree. Collecting the fruits of specific plants makes us able to satisfy the demands of the citizens of Mutation but it is not just a task to satisfy some whims: it is also the only way we have for save the island from the disaster it is facing. The research and cultivation phase of the land is the only one we can actually define ludic but it is clear that the title of Die Gute Fabrik aims at tell a story, without frills and forcing. What emerges from this choice is a rhythm that is actually slow, but intriguing and never boring.
In the early stages of the adventure, one of the characters will provide us with an encyclopedia depicting them all dozens of plants that enrich the landscapes of Mutation. Attention to detail of this book is surprising, both for the characterization of every small and large organism and for the completeness of the work, which turns out to be incredibly thick. Unfortunately this object also represents the only shot failed of indie production, as it is totally useless for progression purposes. Although it has an undoubted value of lore, it would have been really easy to put the player in the condition of having to consult the book to make the different gardens he has to take care of flourish, instead it remains an interesting appendix but an end in itself. The menu that illustrates the different seeds to plant provides us with all the information necessary for their cultivation, therefore we will never find ourselves having to browse the pages of the encyclopedia to evaluate our choices. While this choice streamlines the experience and makes it less fragmented, on the other takes away quite a bit of charm from the whole, which is really a shame considering how much mushrooms, algae, flowers and trees are crucial in the history of Mutation.
Aesthetically, Mutation boasts one of his best strengths. The title is not only entirely hand drawn but the trait adopted and the characterization of the game world and the characters that inhabit it is really irresistible. With a style that can almost make the whole look like a fine collage of colored sheets, the artistic counterpart is in line with the rest of the production: light but exquisite. The minimal style manages to fill the eye with its countless details, excellent color choices and the right balance of composition, making the work a little visual jewel. Regarding the sound accompaniment, often too neglected, we are again faced with a success. The team has created a sound design that is not intrusive but memorable, with honorable mention not only of the melodies to be played in the "gardening" phases but also and above all in the sporadic songs present in the unfolding of the story.
Mutation is a title unexpected, original and magnetic. Anyone looking for an engaging story, charismatic characters and, why not, a little drama, should not underestimate the beauty and charm of this independent production. Effective and intelligent writing forms a team with a high-level artistic sector, effectively making Mutation one of the most welcome surprises of this 2019. The only regret, perhaps, is that the title will see the light in a period so crowded with outputs from the high-sounding name and undoubted media appeal, risking being snubbed in favor of much more noble productions. On the other hand, Mutation presents a structure on which the sign of the time will struggle to affect and this could make it become the small cult that deserves to be. Don't be biased, you will find much more than you could expect.