Get your creative juices flowing and channel your inner David Bailey; it’s time to get your camera out and start taking photos. Umurangi Generation may be set in a (as the devs put it) shitty future, but that doesn’t stop its beauty shining through.
I first played through Umurangi Generation on the PC and instantly fell in love with it. Many games have photo modes, sure. But there aren’t that many that really let you get the feeling of being a photographer. I mean, Pokemon Snap and Afrika, then games like Dead Rising, Beyond Good and Evil, Fatal Frame, etc., have vital photography elements, but they do miss something on the whole. Shutter Stroll is the only real stand-out aside from Umurangi Generation.
This isn’t just a snap and go type of game either; there is a fascinating story that develops (sorry) as you progress, one that isn’t thrown in your face but takes place almost alongside your time in the world, whilst still being a vital element of the game. It really is an interesting integration of narrative that drew me in.
The premise is pretty simple, as you get various levels unlocked by completing photo bounties in each unlocked level. These range from getting photos of certain things, such as wildlife, certain objects, words, scenes, etc. Right up to recreating postcards, finding hidden items and more. You are not time-limited at all, which is a relief to someone like me, but you can get bonuses for completing all main objectives within a certain time.
Sorry for getting ahead of myself a bit. Each photo you take is judged on colour, composition and content. Although no photo is ‘bad’ in the confines of Umurangi Generation, you can earn more money for a shot if you consider the above three factors. However, you should also avoid some things that are made clear as you play, which will lose you money.
Whilst you can snap away, there is a satisfaction to taking your time and getting the best shots possible. Doing some exploration and research rather than being snap-happy. Although you won’t be punished for doing that, you just won’t get rewarded as much. I wish my own photography would net me some money, but I’ll take pretend praise.
It is something I love about Indie games. Umurangi Generation is an example of a game that really cares for its audience. There is the opportunity for a challenge if you want it, but at no point are your frozen out should you just want a relaxing experience. More AAA games should really take notice of this level of inclusion.
On the PC, I will admit the game controls a little better, which is a shame, as handheld on the Switch should be the perfect way of playing, as the Switch itself can easily act as the camera, but a couple of little things stop it working as well as it could. Defaulting to needing to hold LZ to raise the camera is a pain, and I would rather this was defaulted to a toggle. As much as I don’t care for motion controls, I really wanted to look around the scene by moving the switch around, like I was looking through a viewfinder.
These are minor things, though, as the game is still so wonderful. I soon forgot especially as you can turn on motion controls in the options menu. But please do add a toggle button option for raising the camera; it would honestly save a bit of pain in the finger.
I am not usually one for going back and replaying a game many times over, but Umurangi Generation keeps on dragging me back. Even when you are done, you are never actually done. You may take some lovely photos, but as anyone who has used a camera knows, you can always get a different result the next time you take a picture. It is just as true here as it is in real life.
Umurangi Generation was one of the surprise titles of 2020 and one I kept going back to, and the Switch release means it should find a new audience and certainly a few double dippers. It looks stunning; it has a fascinating story and a wonderful atmosphere, all topped off with some of the best photo mechanics in any game to date. Origame Digital have a stone-cold classic on their hands, and you owe it to yourself to own this right now.