Alba: a Wildlife Adventure is an open world photography game developed and published by UK indie studio Ustwo Games. It was released on Apple Arcade and PC in December 2020 and Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X in June 2021. MSRB is $20. I played the PC Version.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is worth a million “Aww”s.
In Alba you play as an adorable kid in an adorable open world taking pictures of adorable animals. Fans of Pokemon Snap that want a bit more nonlinear gameplay will likely love this game.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure sets you loose on the Mediterranean island of Vinar del Mar. It’s a small but charming open world featuring musty ruins, a sunny village, and a wildlife reserve that takes up the focus of the story. You’ll be fixing this reserve in an attempt to save it from a heartless corporation aiming to build a hotel over the land. The simple story, gameplay, and environment reminds me of A Short Hike — it condenses a compelling experience down to its essentials. Yes it may be short, but it’s as sweet as they come.
You’ll be using a phone to take pictures of animals (mostly birds), cataloguing them based on the biome you find them in. It’s not unlike filling out a Pokedex. The developers thankfully took great care to make sure that the aiming works well and that the camera effortlessly recognizes the animals. There is an impressive level of polish to the core game feel. I expected some jank or at least a few animals to frustrate me, but honestly I don’t recall a single shot being difficult to make. Everything controlled smoothly.
Outside of taking pictures, you’ll be completing other small tasks such as cleaning up spilled insecticide or helping remove plastic from around a seagull’s neck. Environmentalism is a strong theme of the game, and fittingly you control a child highly invested in the world that they are about to inherit. The more you clean up, the more tools you get for cleaning things up, and the more animals will return to the island. If you finish enough tasks and photograph enough animals, you’ll eventually get enough signatures for the town to kick out the heartless businessmen.
The game’s low-polygon aesthetic works amazingly well, and the colors just pop everywhere you look. The game’s soundtrack is delightfully influenced by Spain and the sound design is filled with bird chirps and other critter noises. If you’re a bird watcher, or know someone who likes birds, then they would probably adore seeing all of the winged creatures inhabiting this island. And from my own research, they’re all real fauna of Spain. It’s a video game that educates as much as it delights.
In a delightful mashup of Pokemon Snap and real-world Biology, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is an easy recommendation for anyone.