Alba: A Wildlife Adventure started its life as an Apple Arcade exclusive back in 2020 and launched to much critical acclaim. UsTwo's game tells the story of Alba, a curious young girl with a love for animals and nature. Vacationing with her grandparents on an idyllic island full of diverse wildlife, Alba and her best friend suddenly find themselves on a mission to save the nature reserve after the mayor announces development of a huge resort hotel.
Equipped with her trusty camera phone and journal, Alba explores the island in an effort to document nature and gain 50 signatures for a petition to halt development of the hotel. It’s a simple, humble story that puts heavy focus on the environment, but still showcases a strong range of unique characters, including Alba herself, a local veterinarian, the mayor, and more.
After a brief introductory section, you’re free to explore the entire island to your heart’s content; it has a very similar feel to the Pokémon Snap series, but rather than being tethered to a fixed route, you’re completely let off the leash. This, ultimately, is what makes Alba: A Wildlife Adventure so appealing; as you wander down a path towards the beach, or climb to the top of a hill, you might spot a new creature in your peripheral vision, stopping you in your tracks as you break out the camera to take the perfect shot.
The freedom you’re given right from the start makes exploration and discovery feel all the more natural and rewarding. To help you along the way, however, the game does feature a notepad that includes specific tasks you need to complete in order to gain signatures for the petition. These could be as simple as photographing a certain number of species, picking up some litter, or discovering the source of a poisoning epidemic affecting the local wildlife.
There’s little more to say on the actual content without spoiling the entire experience, but if you’re worried about how a game migrating over from Apple Arcade might play, then worry not; while the game doesn’t strive to go beyond 30FPS, the frame rate is stable throughout, and graphical hiccups are practically non-existent. Musical tracks are a rarity, as the game prefers to keep the focus on diegetic sound like bird calls and the sea breeze, but the few tracks that do feature really fit quite well with the overall tone.
With so many games featuring death and destruction, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is a breath of fresh air. Much like Pokémon Snap, its focus on observation is a welcome change of pace, and it never feels like the underlying message is being shoved down our throats. At 2-3 hours in length, our only wish is that it lasted a bit longer, but with its relaxing tone and simple gameplay, this is one we suspect you’ll go back to again and again.