REVIEW | Striking a pose in Umurangi Generation
Even for those familiar with the indie game scenario nowadays, Umurangi Generation might be one the best indie titles of 2020 that many people never heard of (myself included). First released for PC, the game finally got a console launch in the Nintendo Switch by June of 2021.
The game’s developer, Origame Digital, gently handed me a review copy of Umurangi Generation: Special Edition for the Nintendo Switch and after spending many hours discovering the best angles, getting the perfect filters and choosing the most suitable focus aperture to taking pictures, I present a full review of this simple but charming photographer digital adventure.
As soon as you enter the colorful and full of angles of Umurangi Generation you will be immediately compeled to explore it. Here there is no cutscenes, no dialogues and no characters to discover.
If there is any type of narrative element in the game, it is very well hidden behind each elements of the different scenarios of this dystopian sci-fi world. It is up for the player to capture these stories through the lens of a camera.
You may say that the camera, in fact, is the main protagonist of Umurangi Generation. Photography is the central mechanic of the game and it encourages the player to take their time to choose the best angle and moments to take different pictures, according to specific mission assignments. Each potographs can reveal more details about the story of this world (if you have sharp eyes to notice them).
You can complete a level when you fulfill “photo bounties”, which are special photos of significant objects, with the use of additional camera lenses. Nevertheless, the true incentive for the player to continue playing Umurangi Generation is just to discover more about the game’s world details. When you look more deeply, it is not just a photography game, but a detective adventure.
Here lies Umurangi Generation most important element: the environmental storytelling. Few games have managed to perfect the complex art of telling its story through the world itself, but Umurangi Generation nails it. Every graffiti on the walls, every object and even the poses that the characters make has a meaning behind them.
The exact details of the main story of Umurangi Generation are very hazy (even if watch closely at your environment after taking your pictures). Given the high amount of soldiers present in this game’s city, one can imagine a direct comparison to conflict zones and a tense situation between the population and the authorities.
Nevertheless, the player is just a courier that has to make a percel delivery by the end of each level. Your job as amateur photography is just a hobby that at the same time helps you understand your surrondings and discover how to make your delivery, but also to analyse the strange and colorful world you are living in.
Whilst the world is the star of the show, the photography mechanics still have a shine of their own. You can adjust exposure, sliders for colour gradients and even lens speed to really get your photos looking the way you would like. Unfortunately, the implementation of the motion controls to tilt the camera angle is not very useful.
Another issue of this Nintendo Switch port is how bonkers the game physics work. Sometimes, a slite movement can send you off from surfaces and into the space. Fortunately, the player is reset upon leaving the level map, so this issue is not so frustrating. Nevertheless, walking stairs is extremely janky and makes your character moves strangely. If you can avoid them, it will be best for you.
I love games with simple visuals, but the framerate inconsistency of this port makes the colorful, low-poly visual stutter too much (both in handheld mode or docked). It is very strange that a game that is not very visually demanding behaves like this on the Nintendo Switch, where objects can even pop-in at the precise moment that you trying to take a nice picture.
Putting together the framerate problems and the issues with the physics engine, you have an experience that it’s jeoperdized by elements that are not directly related to the game’s core mechanic. This is clearly a lack of polish from the developer team that designed and implemented the port. As a photographic game, Umurangi Generation is perfect, but in all other departments, it is not the best digital entertainement option.
Umurangi Generation is a game with a lot of stories and elements hidden in plain sit behind outdoors, clothes, and even peoples. It is up for the player to discover the game’s essence inside the heart of this photographic adventure and discover that taking pictures takes more than talent, it needs emotions.
Even with its optimization problems the players will enjoy a unique experience with this title on the Nintendo Switch. Sure, if you have a capable PC, do not hesitate to choose this platform, but the praticity of taking this visual adventure wherever you go will prove that the Nintendo Switch is a great house for playing this Umurangi Generation port.
Final opinion: OK
By Luís Antônio Costa