It’s been decades since I’ve played Pokémon Snap, but I still think of it fondly. I only remember playing it in one place, at my grandmother’s house and in the living room, not the den. My memory tells me I never owned it, that I waited patiently for it, week after week, to come back into stock at Blockbuster — the one just down the street from Nana’s. I’d guess that a lot of people my age, somewhere in their mid-30s, have these sorts of memories: ones that are hazy, but mostly true, centered on playing this one game from our childhood.
You can see the influence of Pokémon Snap over a new crop of indie games that have come out over the past few years — stuff like Toripon or Pupperazzi, where the main goal is to take photos of animals. (Birds and dogs, in these two games, respectively.)
For so long, it felt like a new Pokémon Snap game would never happen. Now that it is, and soon, at that, I’ve started craving the memories I had as a child playing the game. Thankfully for me, and maybe for you, there is a recently released game to play that evokes some of the joy I felt in discovering new things as a child. It’s UsTwo Games’ Alba: A Wildlife Adventure.
Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is available to play on Windows PC via Steam and on iOS devices via the Apple Arcade — and it will, eventually, come to consoles like the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The premise is simple: a young girl, Alba, goes on vacation visiting the island her grandparents live on. The island, though, is facing a crisis, with a corporate developer trying to tear down a wildlife reserve to create a massive resort hotel.
Alba and her best friend do little things every day, like seek out rare birds, fix signs, and clean up trash. These little things add up to a movement, as the girls collect signatures for a petition to stop the hotel from being built.
A huge part of the gameplay is photographing and cataloguing the island’s wildlife — mostly birds, which is very exciting for a real-life bird dork like me. This aspect of the game is, of course, where I see the Pokémon Snap influence, but the game also evokes the sort of naïve joy I felt as a child; it’s all awe and wonder in exploring the beautifully crafted world, following sounds to snap a photo of a bird nesting up somewhere in a tree. As Alba, I’ve basically got free reign over the island in my week’s worth of vacation, and the story progresses as I hit certain milestones, like the number of birds photographed.
And there are a lot of birds to photograph, ones that I won’t ever see in my actual backyard or local park. Still, all the birds are real birds, each of which has its own glorious bird calls that can be played back in the in-game wildlife guide.
In the deep cold of winter in New England, Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is just the summer vacation I needed.