When you think about Summer, you think about the memories you’ve made as a kid going on memory-making vacations. Alba: A Wildlife Adventure encompasses everything a summer holiday on an animal-filled island would feel like. You play as Alba in this exploration adventure game as you work with the people of the island to help save the wildlife.
The creators of the iOS game Monument Valley have created something charming. The developers at Ustwo found a vision and stuck to it, as each game sold will plant one real tree. Completing this little game feels like you’ve done something good for yourself and for the world.
Story – Wildlife Protection Squad
During the summer, young Alba visits her abuela and abuelo on a Mediterranean island. Ever since she was little, Alba has taken an interest in the local wildlife of the island. Her grandparents even lend her a phone to take photos of animals and a notebook to record all her findings.
On the island of Pinar del Mar, you run into your old friend Inés who helps you save a dolphin who has washed up to shore. From there, you are given more freedom to help save the flora and fauna of the island at your own pace. You only have a few days on the island before she has to head back home, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take your time.
Your cozy vacation comes to a halt when shady deals are afoot. The mayor of the island has decided to build a 5-star hotel over the deserted wildlife reserve. Not many people are happy about this, but some citizens think it’ll be a good idea. It’s your job as Alba, who creates the AIWRL (Alba and Inés Wildlife Rescue League), to convince the rest of the island to sign your petition to stop the hotel.
That isn’t the only part of the story here. The protagonist’s love for the wildlife takes her across each corner of the island. From beaches to forests, Alba wants to save the birds, creatures and preserve them from destruction. From picking up garbage to fixing bridges and bird feeders, she is always busy.
Despite the game’s small run-time of a few hours, I was constantly involved with the story. No matter if you’re young or old, anyone can feel for Alba and her love for the wildlife. It’s a simple story, but it still kept me cruising along with the gameplay. It made me want to find out what shady business the mayor was getting up to.
There’s nothing too unbelievable about the story, except when it comes to some of the dialogue. It can get corny sometimes, but then I remember how this game could be inclusive to all ages, and I think that’s what the developers at Ustwo were aiming for. Despite these small gripes, the message and theme behind the story are impactful.
Gameplay – Tasks, Rescues and Photography
There are a plethora of tasks and objectives to get to while exploring Pinar del Mar. The first place you’ll end up exploring is a little island called La Roqueta. This is the island where you’ll save the dolphin from washing up ashore. A lot of the wildlife on this small island is only accessible here, so if you ever want to return, you must head to the boat at the edge of town.
You’ll be handed 4 main things. A map, a notebook, a checklist and a phone. These will be your main tools, but throughout the game, you’ll be given a few extra items to help the wildlife return. Within your notebook is a list of all the birds and critters you take photos of.
Alba gamifies the smallest things in this quirky adventure. When asked a yes or no question, you have to physically move the joystick either to nod or shake her head. I felt bad saying I wasn’t excited to be on the island for the summer, so I had to nod yes. Don’t disappoint your abuela!
Your checklist will be your task guide. It will keep track of different ‘quests’ you’ve acquired or things you need to do for the day. Throughout playing, your phone will receive notifications of texts from different citizens who may be thanking you for your services or perhaps asking you for some help.
The gameplay loop is still satisfying, even for such a short game. I finished playing Alba, wanting more to explore. Looking at Ustwo’s previous work, going from a small puzzle app to a larger scaled title is still quite impressive. They make every task a feel-good accomplishment.
This game makes sure to let you know to take your time. You never feel like you need to rush; it feels like a summer vacation on its own. The number of times I whipped out my phone to see if I’d discovered a new animal was astronomical. And when I found a new species, I would check my logbook and play with the animal’s noises. I wish the notebook would’ve included more information on the animal, but I still felt like each time I discovered a new species, I accomplished something great.
Even though some of the tasks were fetch-quests, there was a unique spin to a lot of these. I was always happily surprised when I unlocked a new way to clean up and save the island. If the game were to be longer, I would’ve liked to have seen a broader range of tasks to complete or even longer ‘quests’.
Graphics and Audio – Full of Spirit and Joy
The developers at Ustwo games wanted to make sure looking and listening to Alba was relaxing to experience. With that goal in mind, I can say for certain they were able to accomplish it. Experiencing this game on the PS5 was a sight to behold.
Each area you would traverse had its own set pieces of lush greenery, a bustling town or even a quiet peak. I don’t think Alba needs to look as realistic as real life to be beautiful. The style Ustwo adopts is simple shapes and clay-like visuals. If you take a closer look, the character’s facial expressions are quite comical and well exaggerated.
The audio design helps immerse you in the island of Pinar del Mar. Depending on what area you’re walking through, the noises and music help ground you in the moment. When each day starts, Alba’s journey from her grandparents’ home starts a beautiful chorus of music. Every trek down the hill into the forest and towards the town sounds like you’re about to head on an adventure. Sadly, the music doesn’t last, but it is replaced with beautiful atmospheric noises.
The animal noises are most important. You’ll hear each animal speak as you pass by as if beckoning you to find and discover them. It truly sounds like you’re in a real forest. When you start to head closer to town, your ears will be filled with the sounds of bustling crowds, seagulls squawking and music blaring from radios.
Better yet, you can fiddle with the radios you pass by and switch between different Spanish music stations. One thing Ustwo does so well is embracing their game with its native influences. They made sure not to white-wash the history and culture of the Mediterranean island.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure was played on PS5.