Day five of the RPS Advent Calendar is much more relaxed than yesterday’s. You can hear people chatting on the other side of the door. Maybe you should sit down and listen to the wind in the leaves for a while.
Alice Bee: So, your grandad is sick, and you travel to the island where he lives to see, and take care of, him. Except he lives on an island that was struck by a meteor decades before, and now everyone born there is some kind of mutant. Not the X-Men kind, the kind that is just a non-human looking person. Not a lot happens in Mutazione in a game-y way (I mean, you save an ecosystem I guess). Mutazione is meant to be a soap opera, so while they’re mutants that look like cats or big lizards, their drama is very familiar. Grief! Loss! Pregnancy! Your job is to listen and be a part of it. And to grow things.
Mutazione has lots of areas where you can grow gardens. Different plants create different emotions, which affect the inhabitants of the little mutant island, and to progress you have to make a garden that fulfils the right feeling. A sad crop of lilies or happy whistling grasses. You can, if you want, just sit in the gardens and listen to the noises they make. I would really like Mutazione to have a infinite garden mode where the game is just you live on Mutazione and grow plants, forever.
A few months ago I got a desk plant (called James Plant; gendered only so I can refer to James Plant as “my son” and thus unnerve the HR manager the plant is named after, which may actually be an HR issue). James Plant has genuinely been a massive bolster to me. On days when I don’t feel like getting up, I am moved to go into the office and check that James Plant has clean leaves and doesn’t need watering. James Plant has recently grown a new spray of young, bright green leaves, and I want to check how tall it is each day. I have secret plans to repot James Plant (the first time I have repotted anything!) and to grow new plants from leaf cuttings. I genuinely cannot recommend getting a hardy houseplant enough. Mutazione was right! It was right!
Alice0: Hello! Welcome! You are now in the middle of a harmful situation! Numerous volatile situations, even! What’s the plan, champ?
You can’t fix someone’s relationship on the brink of collapse, cure someone’s loneliness, or undo the harm of colonial plundering. It’s not your place to come up with answers to everything. But you can be present, you can be earnest and honest, and you can support people if they want you to. Sometimes silence is enough. Mutazione is perhaps the only game with dialogue options where I often chose not to press matters further, where I didn’t want to wring everyone for all their stories and secrets. I wanted to know because I liked them but I couldn’t demand it. I didn’t fear rejection, I feared that these gentle people would tell me secrets they weren’t ready to share because they didn’t want to make me feel hurt. I worried a lot about everyone while playing. But you can be present, you can be earnest and honest, and you can stop deciding what’s best for other people.
What a treat to explore this island day-by-day, checking in on people, planting gardens, quietly fretting, and growing friendships. Being introduced to a new pal’s secret swimming spot is the most intimate moment I have experienced in a video game.
Disclosure: Some pals of mine worked on this, including former RPS contributor Hannah Nicklin.
Looking for a different door? Head back to the RPS Advent Calendar 2019!