GamingReview: Beasts of Maravilla Island

Review: Beasts of Maravilla Island


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At first glance Beasts of Maravilla Island comes off as a colourful, unique take on the genre that Pokémon Snap perfected (don’t @ me), but sadly the interest is barely skin deep as performance issues and a lack of depth hamper this adventure game from Banana Bird Studios and Whitethorn Games from ever soaring to the heights that its creatures awkwardly rise to.

Attempting to thread together what would otherwise be an aimless wander around a tropical island is the narrative device of the journal your Grandad left to you. Upon his death, I’m assuming. When I watched the trailers before firing this baby up, I was under the impression that you filled this journal in as you went with illustrations of the critters you encounter, making each player’s book a unique reflection on their time with Beasts of Maravilla Island. This was unfortunately not the case. Instead, your journal is already filled in and you just add some photos to the blank pages.

Let’s Talk Beasts

Speaking of photography, it is here where the game’s core mechanic lies. As you trek across the island you can snap a cornucopia of the various flora and fauna on display. Each new species registering in your journal once the photo is taken and whilst there are some nice instances of unique interactions between animals, orchestrating a monkey choir using the whistle button springs to mind, most of these are shallow and uninteresting, which in a game using wonder and exploration as a hook, is the opposite of good.

Additionally, there is little to no incentive to take these photographs outside of a completionist’s mania. There is a checklist of things to find and for the more unique species, a list of behaviours to study, but I never found myself particularly motivated to find them. I found myself towards the end of the game’s 1-hour runtime, just breezing through environments in an effort to reach a more compelling narrative conclusion.

The one positive that I think is there for all to see is how great a job this game does with colour. Environments are interesting and have a feeling of depth, the creatures moving through the world bring it a real sense of vibrancy. Allowing you to believe that this world is truly intriguing enough for both Marina and her grandfather to have been obsessed with it.

Puzzles? I Suppose

Mixed in with the photography and the cross-country trekking is the occasional puzzle. These typically revolve around using either your camera flash or your whistle to startle creatures or plants into creating a bridge or lift to help you access new areas. The concept here is nice but doesn’t get pushed to any sort of complexity that would make the mechanic interesting. Instead, they’re little more than roadblocks that only serve to extend your time in each biome on the island.

The only one that took me any longer than a minute was towards the end of the game where I had to persuade a beast to charge at me to demolish some pillars. This didn’t take me a while due to the difficulty of the puzzle, rather the beast would only charge after completing a certain set of animations that took a while, following which he would leap into the air for 5 seconds and repeat. If there were any real danger here maybe the threat would’ve kept me in suspense, as it is there was no repercussion for failure, no loss of health (probably due to the absence of a health bar), nothing.

A Journey in Jumping

The traversal mechanics of this game are as simple as running forwards. That’s all you need to know. There is no jump, sprint, throw, or anything of the sort. There is a crouch button which I might’ve used twice in the whole game but that’s it. Jumping across rivers and streams is as simple as aiming for a lily pad and running at it. Marina (the protagonist) will then rise into the air like a hot air balloon without so much as an animation that I could discern.

This review was done on PS5, a console that handles AAA games on the regular without any issues, and yet Beasts of Maravilla Island struggled with performance at times.

The environment features becoming hollow, stuttered running, and Marina getting stuck on stairs. These plagued my time with Beasts of Maravilla Island and perhaps some of my dislike stems from that. There was genuinely one point right at the end of the game where Marina must climb a long set of stairs to reach the peak of the island. I got stuck halfway up. Took about 3 minutes of trying to progress.

A Story in an Hour

Beasts of Maravilla Island was likely always going to have an issue with narrative given its very short runtime. Outside of an opening and closing cutscene, there isn’t much to the plot however what it does have is decently compelling and delivers a nice message about respecting the world around us, especially if we do not understand it.

But for a game valuing discovery and exploration, there are certain plot pieces that don’t quite hold up to scrutiny. For example, it comes to light that your grandfather stole something magical from the island and in doing so ravaged the environment. You, of course, correct this in your journey but you don’t once question the existence of magic, you just roll with it. I think I’d have more questions if I watched an entire biome spring from decay to recovery in 5 seconds but that might just be me.

A Flawed Attempt at Something Greater

Beasts of Maravilla Island creates a good backdrop for an exploration adventure game but then doesn’t deliver on the promise it holds. Some of the creatures are well-designed but there’s not enough of them. Some of the biomes are beautiful but there are not enough of them. Some of the plot is compelling but there’s not enough of it.

Performance issues aside, Beasts doesn’t go far enough in its creativity and that feels like a huge let-down for something so driven by the pursuit of the unknown.


+Colourful and vibrant world
+Creative design of beasts
+Meaningful moral of the story
-Performance issues
-Narrative could use expanding
-No reason to actually take the photos
-Not enough major creatures
-Little to no explanation of mystic world
(Reviewed on PS5, also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC)
Damien Gorman
Damien Gorman
Been gaming casually for many a year. As long as I don't have to directly compete against other people I'm in. Big fan of JRPGs, platformers, and action/adventures. Will play games on easy mode if you let me
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+Colourful and vibrant world <br/> +Creative design of beasts <br/> +Meaningful moral of the story <br/> -Performance issues <br/> -Narrative could use expanding <br/> -No reason to actually take the photos <br/> -Not enough major creatures <br/> -Little to no explanation of mystic world <br/> (Reviewed on PS5, also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC)Review: Beasts of Maravilla Island