The beaches of Maravilla Island

Yet another one in the books of you inheriting something from your grandfather to go far away on an adventure, Beasts of Maravilla Island has you equipped with a camera this time instead of a sword. Developed by Banana Bird Studios and published by Whitethorn Digital, Beasts of Maravilla Island follows in the footsteps of Pokémon Snap and is a photography adventure game.

The forests of Maravilla Island

Say Cheese

You play as Marina Montez, who after receiving her late grandfather’s journal sets off on a journey to Maravilla Island, a place she’s only heard of in fairytales. Upon arriving at the island’s coast, it’s clear that the creatures roaming about aren’t ones we’re used to seeing, and that Maravilla Island’s flora and fauna are unique to itself.

With your trusty camera and your grandfather’s journal full of information about the island’s inhabitants, you decide to continue your grandfather’s goal to capture the island’s magic. Eventually, you’ll learn about your grandfather’s wrongdoings in an attempt to preserve the island, and it will be up to you to fix his past mistakes.

Pages from Marina's grandfather's journal

It’s a premise that’s simple and sweet enough and has a nice moral to it. There isn’t too much dialogue involved and the only characters present throughout the story are Marina herself and her grandfather’s past penned down in pages. Understandably so, the story takes a backseat and isn’t of much substance, but the game’s plot ties up about as you’d expect it to, making for a satisfying ending.

A Blurry Lens

The photography portion of the game is fairly straightforward. You point your camera at a species, you can zoom in or zoom out, and you can press the shutter. There’s a selfie mode to switch to with a few different expressions Marina can display, but the camera could greatly benefit from filters, frames, and other modes to jazz up your pictures. You can capture up to 20 images of a single species. Some creatures will have various behaviors they exhibit to capture with your lens. These ‘primary creatures’ will have four different behaviors to document. After capturing all of them, the next area on the island is available to explore.

The aspect that’s a bit disappointing for me is that there isn’t much of a way to interact with the creatures on the island, something that Pokémon Snap had down to a T. You can only call out to them by whistling, and that’s about it. If there was a way to pick native fruits and berries on the island to feed the animals, that would have added a bit more immersion.

Capturing an image

Apart from this, there are a few puzzles here and there that help you explore a bit more, but they’re not very intuitive. A few species will react to the camera’s shutter, such as a giant flower opening up to become a platform, but it’s glaringly obvious. Most of all, it doesn’t take much to capture an image of a species, and they can be even completely hidden from the shot. As long as it’s detected by the camera, it gets added to your album. There isn’t a grading system for the shots you take either, so the photography aspect is more of just pointing and clicking. The gameplay is great for those looking for a laidback experience, but for those hoping for a challenge best look elsewhere.

Almost Picture Perfect

Maravilla Island is certainly a sight to look at, and there’s a handful of different areas to explore teeming with all sorts of critters. I was completely enamored by the bioluminescent region, filled with glowing mushrooms and an illuminated river. That being said, there are a few bugs here and there, and no, I don’t mean the ones on the island.

The glowing rivers of Maravilla Island

There’s an awful lot of clipping going on between all the different elements in the game, which tends to really be a put-off, especially when you zoom in on some of the creatures. The textures on the trees and plants end up looking really flat at a closer look. Moreover, some of the animations end up looking really stiff. Not just Marina when she’s walking or climbing, but when you observe the behavior of some of the animals, they will often seem just still and lifeless. Occasionally, I’d end up glitching through objects as well.

On the bright side, the soundtrack is easy on the ears and adds to the island feel. The sound design is a delight as well, as there are tons of chirps and screeches that’ll make your ears perk up.

Final Thoughts

Beasts of Maravilla Island is a little getaway that lasts for a few hours, but its flaws make the trip a little less than memorable. There isn’t any replay value to the game either to make it worth a second visit, so it’s best to make the most out of your first playthrough. While a charming tale embedded with wonder, there’s still room for improvement on this short-lived journey.

TechRaptor reviewed Beasts of Maravilla Island on PC with a code provided by the developer. The game is also available on Nintendo Switch and Xbox One.

Review Summary