Umurangi Generation Special Edition review

This near-future photography sim offers a tutorial before jumping in. Whether it’s needed, however, is debatable. Not only does the concept of photography require no explanation whatsoever, but the control system has been lifted from a typical first-person shooter. If you’ve played pretty much any FPS over the last twenty years, you’re set. Not even New Pokémon Snap was this intuitive.

You’re tasked with snapping sights from a hostile invasion, in which the UN has become heavily involved. We won’t spoil who’s invading – there’s a slight build-up to that – but rest assured that it makes for a dramatic, gradually unfolding story. A lot of this is told through environmental storytelling, with some mission objectives and the shooting locations themselves filling in the blanks.

There’s a slight Jet Set Radio vibe present, in that the city’s youth are rebelling in unorthodox ways, gathering in groups while boomboxes blare out urban beats, and graffitiing over UN propaganda. On my first playthrough, I had the volume on low, not expecting much more than ambient sound. When I returned to mop up achievements, I turned the volume up – and discovered that I had missed out on a decent, considerably modern, soundtrack that comprises of drum ‘n bass and electro.

As you may have guessed by the screenshots, it’s meant to resemble a low-poly 32-bit generation game. A PSone game circa 2001 would be the easiest way to describe it, although a late-‘90s PC FPS powered by a first-gen 3D card is more accurate. At a shove, an expansion pack compatible N64 game – it does recall Rare’s Perfect Dark in places. At times it looks rather appealing, with a billboard-covered city street being a highlight, while in others it’s downright crude. One mission is set on top of a building at night, and because all environmental detail is lost due to the darkness, it ends up resembling a LEGO Duplo set.

Ten missions are available, each with a ten-minute target time, culminating in an experience that lasts around 3 hours. No, our maths isn’t incorrect – chances are you won’t meet the target time on your first attempt, resulting in a second run. Each mission provides a list of seven things to find and photograph. Sometimes you’ll be required to gain a certain number of things in one shot – meaning the perfect angle must be found by climbing or crouching, or by using a wide/fisheye lens. As new lenses unlock frequently, returning to past stages can provide new opportunities, including a few surprising secrets.

Occasionally, some ‘out of the box’ thinking is required – it can be quite a clever game in places. In others, rather frustrating. There are some vague object descriptions (such as being asked to photograph “Two Markers”) and there will be times when there’s just one specific object left to snap, resulting in walking around in circles until stumbling upon it. It’s a bit like playing a wave-based FPS where there’s just one enemy left to kill (…who you eventually find stuck behind a door.)

When replaying a mission, the list of items to photograph remains the same. So, unless you have a memory akin to that of a goldfish, the target time can be easily beaten if you choose to retry a mission straight away – you’ll know exactly where to go, and what to snap. Bonus objectives help to mix things up a little, including collectible rolls of film that can be tricky to find.

For non-Game Pass subscribers, the £18.89 price tag ($25) is quite hard to justify considering the 3-hour (approx.) runtime and occasionally drab low-fi visuals. If you have Game Pass though, and the idea of a future-retro photography game appeals, then there’s not much standing in your way. I’d still recommend Pupperazzi – another photography game available on Game Pass – over this, though. Umurangi Generation Special Edition may be stylish, but it’s also a little insubstantial.

Umurangi Generation Special Edition is out now on Xbox One. It first launched on PC and Switch.

SCORE
6

Matt Gander

Matt is Games Asylum's most prolific writer, having produced a non-stop stream of articles since 2001. A retro collector and bargain hunter, his knowledge has been found in the pages of tree-based publication Retro Gamer.

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