I haven’t taken a holiday in the better part of a decade, but launching Alba: A Wildlife Adventure immediately gave me those “first step off the plane in a hot country” flashbacks, where a hot breeze gently brushes your face as a newfound sense of adventure slowly triggers in your brain.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is set on a peaceful Mediterranean island where the eponymous Alba is staying with her grandparents for a summer holiday. Upon arrival she befriends another girl her age, Ines, and discovers an impending ecological disaster that the island faces.
As Alba, you spend her week on the island tidying the place up and ensuring it’s a much cleaner place to live. Performing small tasks such as picking up litter and fixing scenery helps, but you must also enact bigger changes such as rescuing animals in peril and completing an entire bestiary of all the species that live there.
The premise of each situation Alba and Ines find themselves in can be rather silly at times, such as when a skilled carpenter gives their dangerous tools to them and letting them run free around the island fixing things. Putting the entire island’s ecological wellbeing in the hands of two children is exactly the type of erratic writing that serves the tone well due to it being an environmental parable aimed at children.
Meanwhile, there is also the diverse line-up of the residents which gives the island a greater sense of character. There are characters of many ethnicities and faiths included in the game, and the dialogue shows that ustwo did proper research in accurately portraying individuals that belong to those backgrounds. Even Alba herself is mixed-race, having two white grandparents while she has brown skin. This diversity makes the island so much more interesting, and it also serves as an avenue for children playing the game to see themselves represented.
The sounds of a video game world are often tricky to get right. They often feel quiet as a way to emphasise the music or non-diegetic sounds the game is making (seriously, try muting the music in a game and hear how silent a video game city feels). Alba doesn’t fall into this trap, instead presenting a massive variety of different sounds to you and making the island feel authentic.
It is through this sound that its portrayal of nature is incredibly detailed too, where ustwo includes many real recordings of animal sounds to make the island feel populated and immersive. Bird enthusiasts in particular will enjoy this, with each distinct noise accurately matching its real-life counterpart.
You can photograph these animals too using Alba’s phone, which scans them and fills up her notebook of discoveries with more information such as the sound they make and their scientific name. This is a great feature that encourages you to seek out as many species as you can to fill the database and allows you to have fun with the photo mechanic.
It’s a shame this feature doesn’t go any further though. Alba is on holiday, after all, so why not allow her to take photos of the places she goes and people she meets to add to a photo album? Phot modes are ‘In’ right now, so it would have been a great addition to a mechanic that already exists in-game.
It’s also disappointing that Alba: A Wildlife Adventure suffers as far as performance on last-gen consoles go, which can be distracting from the peaceful vibe the game evokes. There are some significant frame-rate drops in certain areas, especially when you go up high and view the entire island from one spot. This should be less of a problem if you’re playing on a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S, but is absolutely more noticeable on last-gen systems such as the PS4 Pro we tested this on. So do keep that in mind when considering a purchase.
Besides that, I have very little to complain about with this. It’s a game that is obviously made as an educational tool for children about the benefits of keeping a cleaner society, and therefore should be treated as such. But even if you don’t have a child, there’s a certain type of summer vibe this game has that makes it a great thing to play on a hot evening. Clocking in at around 3-4 hours to complete everything, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is the most chilled experience you will have all season.
Tested on PS4 Pro
Also available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS5, Nintendo Switch, iOS
Developer ustwo games
Publisher PID Games
Disclosure a copy of Alba: A Wildlife Adventure was provided by Bastion PR