Game: Mari and Bayu – The Road Home
Genre: Indie game, Action game, Adventure game.
System: Steam (Microsoft Windows)
Developer | Publisher: Skinny Bandit | Plug In Digital (PID Games)
Controller Support: Full
Price: USD $ TBC | UK £ TBC | € TBC
Release Date: July 19th, 2022
Review code used, with many thanks to PID Games.
In the last few years, we have seen many platformer games appear in the indie industry, but most of them pass unnoticed because of the flood of games from this genre. Only a few stand out because of their originality, gameplay, or beautifully made aesthetics. Not many years ago, Ori and the Blind Forest captivated me with its majestic sound, art, and non-linear platformer design mixed with backtracking. Mari and Bayu – The Road Home, a 2d platform-adventure game, seem to have taken inspiration from these type of games, bringing to us beautiful aesthetics with lots of nature and intriguing mechanics.
“Go on a grand voyage in this co-op platform-adventure game. Play as Mari the ant and Bayu the firefly to solve puzzles, surf the wind on a feather or even ride a friendly grasshopper!”
A Journey of Growth – The Princess Voyage
Mari and Bayu – The Road Home is a story about an ant, who is the princess of her colony, next in line to become queen. This ant is called Mari, who has some insecurity with her skills, doubting a lot about everything and getting constantly scared. She has a brother, who is the general of the ants, strong and with great confidence, called Tom. The story begins one night when Tom takes Mari out for a stroll to show her a beautiful view of fireflies glowing next to their anthill. Little did they know, their adventure was about to begin. Their special moment was interrupted by a spider that kidnaps Tom and throws Mari down the anthill.
Here is where Bayu (Indonesian for the word “wind”), a magical firefly, comes in, rescuing Mari and offering to help her get back to the anthill. This game has so many meaningful lessons, but overall, what makes it special for me is accompanying Mari and Bayu on their journey and feeling their growth as they solve problems together while supporting each other. Bayu decides to help Mari get to the anthill and find Tom and Mari helps Bayu save other fireflies that are trapped and hidden around.
Go with the Flow…the Flow of the Wind
The mechanics of this game separates it from many other platformers, making it unique and intriguing. It didn’t take me long to understand it and once I got used to the controls, it was quite satisfying to solve every puzzle and problem that was in my way.
Bayu assists Mari with magical wind power that helps push heavy objects together, raise and fly a feather that Mari can get on to and surf, get rid of leaves or garbage in the way, and many other situations that you’ll meet.
It is challenging enough to sometimes make you rethink how to do things, but not so difficult that you get completely stuck and frustrated. I found the mechanics of this game to be creatively made with a great concept behind it. Experiencing its puzzles with a minimalistic view of the world from the perspective of an ant is something that Mari and Bayu – The Road Home does amazingly.
More Outside the Anthill – Meeting Interesting Characters
The journey of Mari and Bayu is so filling in many ways. In the beginning, the obstacles they face seem too tough for Mari, luckily, Bayu is there to motivate her, cheer her up and help her out. The more Mari and Bayu progress, the more confident she becomes. Mari always shows to be very smart, even though she criticizes herself for not being as strong and secure as her brother. But she has much more than that.
Mari has a big and strong heart. With it, she helps and relates with the other insects outside of the anthill, gaining experience as she explores the surrounding of the anthill. Along the way, they meet some quirky, funny and particular characters, like butterflies saying a couple of lines, or a competitive grasshopper who eventually becomes a friend.
Aesthetics and Sound – How Nature Feels
The art and sound of Mari and Bayu – The Road Home took me back to the games of Ori. It has its resemblance to it and it feels great. The fact is, these types of games bring me peacefulness, excitement, thoughtfulness and more, all in one journey of a few hours that can last for a few days, yet they stay with me afterwards. The environmental music, the majestic tunes and the sound of the insects and animals were spectacular.
The design and art implemented in this game match nicely with the theme. It also reminded me of the movie “A Bug’s Life” I watched as a kid. To have this movie in mind while playing this game gave me a sweet and nostalgic experience. The puzzles within nature (or huge human objects in one of the areas) are brilliant and not only that but finding secrets hidden in the stages is very satisfying.
When the Good Parts Overcome the Bad Ones
There are a few aspects that could still be improved though. The game had such attractive visuals, but sadly that caused the more simple animations to feel out of place. There are numerous ways you could lose and start from a checkpoint, from touching pointy spikes, being smashed by a giant finger, or being eaten by a nasty frog. Still, all of those different ways to lose had the same animation: a black screen with Mari falling. It felt a little poor compared to the rest of the game.
Other than that, the game was wonderful and to be honest, the rest of it makes up for the death animation or any unpolished part. Mari and Bayu – The Road Home is not just any platformer-adventure game that takes you on a mainstream story of a character finding courage and confidence.
It brings much more meaningful messages throughout their journey with their narrative, simple as it may seem. Their mechanics are creative and challenging, and not to forget, very fun. The sound and visuals stand out with a peaceful relaxing feeling, even when dealing with complex situations. The game is good, even with its little flaws.
Playing this game only gave me enjoyment, with brief moments of thoughtfulness and challenging problems to solve. It kept me quite entertained and the end of each stage made me curious about the next one. It has co-op which seems like a great experience to have with a friend. I would firmly recommend accompanying Mari and Bayu on their journey and playing this game, especially if you enjoy a serene yet challenging platformer adventure with a nice story and charming aesthetics.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up