Gaming

Alba, the green video game to try out urgently

A week’s vacation on a Mediterranean island: this is what we have to offer Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, the new very green game to put in all hands (even the smallest) of the creators of “Monument Valley”. And also: the subtle and touching When the Past Was Around and the nuggets of Atari Lynx, former rival of the GameBoy, reissued on the Evercade.

Shigeru Miyamoto has often told how, as a child, he liked to explore the Japanese countryside around his home, eager to discover animals, caves or unknown passages, which directly influenced his video game work, from Mario at Zelda Passing by Pikmin. Latest creation from the British studio Ustwo Games, already responsible for the excellent Monument valley, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is entirely carried by this spirit of wonder. Except that it is not here the engine of a dive into the imagination as in the Japanese game designer, but turned towards our very world, via the stylized but vibrant representation of a small Spanish island where the young Alba is spending her vacation.

The weather is fine, the sea is beautiful and we let ourselves be carried away by the songs of the birds, but all is not however rosy on this island whose representation recalls the maritime universe of one of the most beautiful parts of the saga. Zelda, The Wind Waker. Between the rubbish littering its beaches and forests and its abandoned nature reserve, Pinar Del Mar – for that is its name – has obviously seen better days, but there are worse: in just a few days must start the construction of a luxury hotel that threatens to change life on the island forever. So Alba takes matters into her own hands. With her best friend, she is preparing a petition that she will present to the inhabitants. The objective: to collect fifty signatures from opponents of the project to present them to the mayor before the end of the week to convince him to give up this construction.

Photo safari

But if time is short, this is paradoxically no reason to hurry. Because, the magic of the video game, it is at the same time elastic and if, in the evening, we are advised to go back to Grandpa and Grandma, no one will ever prevent us from continuing to roam the island, to run from the city to the castle. in ruins which sits on its heights, passing by its farm and its rice fields. Or, possibly, to just sit at one of its vantage points which, like in the games from studio Dontnod (Life is Strange, Tell me why), have no other function than to encourage us to stop. To watch, breathe, listen – the soundtrack is extraordinary.

No misunderstanding: the heady adventure is not part of these still precious walking simulators, in which the player wanders aimlessly other than those he possibly gives to himself. Here, the objectives are even quantified. It is for example eight pieces of rubbish that will have to be collected to clean a certain area of ​​the island or four animals that will have to be treated in another place. Not to mention the census of animals that we have managed to find and identify, whose progress serves as a common thread. This “collection” could also be the real goal of the game, especially since it is possible to go in search of those who have escaped us even after the end (scripted) of the game.

To do this, our “weapon” is a simple phone on which is installed an application that we would rather have in person: a sort of animal Shazam. Just take a picture of a bird or mammal, even from the back and framed with the feet, for our phone to tell us that it is a wagtail, a gray heron or just from a beast domestic cat.

For each one, we will then have a presentation sheet which, in addition to the rest, will allow you to listen to your cry at will (to possibly learn to recognize it). In this photo safari that will perhaps remind some of the very cult Pokémon Snap, some animals appear almost as end-of-level bosses, which we are explicitly asked to search for and which we sometimes only find with difficulty. Ah, what satisfaction to finally find European hawks. And we are not talking about the Iberian eagle. But what about this rumor that a lynx is hiding somewhere in Pinar Del Mar?

Critical utopia

There are the large games, but a little empty, and those, with a smaller surface area, which are very inhabited. There are also games that rely on our destructive impulses (FPS, but not only) and those that encourage us to put things back in order, to put them away (among many others: Tetris or Super Mario Sunshine). In these two alternatives, Alba chooses option 2, that of the small universe which has a soul and meaning, while frankly assuming its ecological goal. And this, in a rather clever way: by relying on the logic of “missions” on which most video games are based. We are doing what we are asked to do and which, here, happens to be to protect and maintain the places visited. After having patched up a few birdhouses, we find ourselves, moreover, just like that, in passing, picking up the laundry that the neighbors had put out to dry in front of their house.

The great success ofAlba is born from his way of articulating “being” and “doing”. Or, more precisely, to nourish by each of the small actions that he asks us to execute the attachment that we feel for his world, in a way that recalls the awesome A Short Hike, of which the game of Ustwo Games is a bit the more luxurious twin and more openly militant and young audience (only condition: knowing how to read, or get help from an adult).

With A Short Hike, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure also shares a game-refuge side, a feel-good game nature, but on the principle of side stepping, critical utopia and a sideways look at our world rather than desperate avoidance. It is a game that warms the heart, gives energy and helps to breathe. It is difficult to find a better place to start the year.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure (Ustwogames), on Windows (around 17 €) and Apple Arcade. To be released on Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X / S

And also :

“When the Past Was Around”

With Alba: A Wildlife Adventure, When the Past Was Around shares at least one point in common: that of getting us to take care of the laundry (launch a laundry, put it to dry). For the rest, the subtle and touching work of Indonesian studio Mojiken turns out to be as ethereal as that of Ustwo Games is solar. Here it is the memory and how it can do good and bad at the same time that is at the center of everything.

Between point & click adventure and hidden object game, When the Past Was Around shares with us Eda’s journey, her love, her hopes, her doubts, her loss. Our task here will be to put the pieces together, literally (on the classic point & click principle) as well as narratively and emotionally. Ideally tightened, When the Past Was Around is also a beautiful musical journey.

On Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S, Mac and Windows, Mojiken / Toge Productions / Chorus Worldwide, from 6 to 9 €

“Atari Lynx Collection 1 & 2”

Launched last summer, the small portable console Evercade, dedicated to retro video games, has since kept all its promises with regular releases of new game cartridges and great announcements for the coming months, especially those of compilations of the series. worms, works by Jaleco and Codemasters studios and independent productions. In the meantime, its latest publications honor a great neglected in the history of portable consoles: the Atari Lynx.

Launched in 1989, the same year of the GameBoy, the latter was undoubtedly ahead of its time with its color screen and its 16-bit processor or even, as today on some Switch games, the possibility of switching its display from horizontal to vertical, but its high price and limited catalog of games did not allow it to win. Bringing together twenty-five titles, the two anthologies for Evercade do nicely justice to this somewhat forgotten machine.

Among the nuggets to report: the space shooter Blue Lightning, the racing game Checkered Flag, the platformer Scrapyard Dog animated comic strip look, the amazing adventure game Dracula: The Undead, puzzle games Chip’s Challenge and Super Skweek or, among a good selection of sports games, the sunny California Games.

On Evercade, Songbird Productions / Blaze Entertainment, around € 20 per cartridge

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