Thursday, February 29, 2024

‘Alba: A Wildlife Adventure’ is a relaxing game about nature conservation

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Us two games

There is however a slight art to filling your Fauna Mediterránea. Just like wild Pokémon, each creature lives in a specific part of the world. You’ll have to visit the terraces to find a Guirra sheep, for example, and the mountain for a peregrine falcon. Animals also move around their assigned biome, making it a bit more difficult to align a shot. If you are too far away or the animal suddenly jumps out of the frame, the app will not save your find. To capture them all, you’ll need to master the smartphone’s camera, which can be controlled with a keyboard, gamepad, or touchscreen, depending on your gaming hardware.

With over 60 different species on the island, there is plenty to find and capture. I wish there was a bit more variety in the wildlife, however. The game contains a ton of different birds, but only one lizard and an ocean creature. It would also have been nice to photograph insects using some kind of special macro lens.

Alba: a wildlife adventure is more than a collectathon, however. The hero of the game soon discovers that a hotel is going to be built on the island’s currently neglected nature reserve. Alba and her best friend Ines are understandably furious and create a petition to block construction of the hotel. To convince the mayor of the island, greedy for money, they will need at least 50 signatures from the inhabitants of the city. The couple slowly increase them by repairing the nature reserve, helping the animals, and generally cleaning up the island. Every time they do a good deed, more citizens remember the animals and the natural beauty around them.

All of these tasks are simple to perform. A one-button tap will fix a broken walkway or bench, for example. The same command will free a bird from the plastic rings that hold a six-pack of booze together. Although mundane, I found these missions extremely satisfying. Part of that is because – and I’m a little ashamed to admit it – I enjoy busy working in the open world. I’ll be happy to load up an Assassin’s Creed title and complete some of its side quest minutiae while listening to a podcast or audiobook on my phone. Or talk to villagers on Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp while preparing dinner after work. If you like this kind of relaxed gaming experiences, you will probably enjoy Alba: a wildlife adventure too.

UsTwo Games said the game was inspired by employees’ “fond memories of childhood summers in the Mediterranean”. It really shows. The small town has a single veterinarian (Clínica Veterinaria), a bar (Bar Sol) and a carpentry shop (Carpinteria Maria). There is a ferry that will take you to La Roqueta, an even smaller island with a cafe that sells paella and tortillas. On both land masses, the ground is dusty or covered with sunburnt grass. You will notice that some residents wither, swallow ice cream or doze off on deckchairs in front of their homes. Others sit on benches, happy to read a newspaper or gaze at the nearly cloudless sky for a while. You will never see a moving car and no one seems in a rush to do anything.

The game has a short but dramatic finale. (You can probably guess if the hotel is built at the end.) It took me about four hours to complete, although I didn’t photograph every beast and a piece of rubbish slipped out. Alba: a wildlife adventure is the kind of game you can knock out in one night. The perfect length, I guess, for any kid with a short attention span. If your little one enjoys nature – or you want to teach them about environmental conservation – this is a great choice. It might also appeal to older gamers who took a similar vacation as a child, or who just want to close their eyes and pretend they’re somewhere warmer for a while.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is out now on Apple Arcade ($ 4.99 per month), Steam, and ($ 13.59, normally $ 16.99).


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