Keeping Wanderlust at Bay With Alba: A Wildlife Adventure
Revisiting my childhood through a charming journey of wildlife rescue, friendship, discovery, and nature conservation on Apple Arcade
I spent every summer of my childhood in the mountains of Romania.
For me, this remote haven was a place I could explore some of the things I love most: nature, animals, and the quaint appeal of having time alone to think.
I’ve been very intentional about trying to cultivate access to those things in my adult life, and every so often I encounter them in unexpected places-like a video game from Apple Arcade.
Welcome to Secarral
My Romanian summers were spent visiting my grandparents, so you can imagine my delight when I realized that Alba shares the same setup.
Set on a fictional Mediterranean island, Alba’s story takes place over a week-long visit with her grandparents. As soon as she arrives, Alba meets her friend Inés and, before long, the two of them have formed a special wildlife rescue league and pledged to clean up the island.
The developers describe the game as a “chillectathon”, which they define as “just a feel-good game about running around and doing good deeds.”
Sign me right up, please.
Alba is full of charming moments and quirky characters. You’ll spend a lot of the game wandering around and meeting them, having conversations, and convincing them to help you with your tasks.
But besides wandering around and chatting with them, there’s also a Pokémon Snap style mechanic that asks you to use your in-game smartphone’s camera to photograph the native wildlife. This is the collecting bit.
Taking animal portraits gives you a small info card about whatever the creature is, offering an educational angle too; the information is accurate…at least in the sense that they’re real species, not so much that they’d all necessarily live in that ecosystem together.
Each day, you’ll have a series of tasks to complete that range from photographing a certain number of species to cleaning up trash.
Sometimes, you’ll run into unexpected situations that encourage you to explore more of the island and meet more of its residents as you investigate.
Along the way, you’ll uncover the story of a crooked mayor trying to destroy the island’s nature reserve to build a big hotel. As you might imagine, the island’s residents are less than thrilled and you’ll play a big role in changing the outcome of the project.
There’s also a cute subplot of sorts about a very shy lynx that Alba is desperate to catch a photo of. The lynx is elusive, but seems to take a liking to Alba, following her surreptitiously.
By the time you reach the end, this has escalated into comical taunts and close calls, but the way it resolves is sweet and feels like a well-earned smile-I won’t spoil it.
I played Alba on my iPad with a PlayStation DualShock 4 controller, and it was a seamless experience. Apple haven’t directly created any games or gaming hardware, but between Apple Arcade and the controller support added to iOS, they’ve managed to build out a platform that rivals the big players in the space.
As former OneZero editor-in-chief Damon Beres recently pointed out:
According to IDC, Apple pulled in $13.39 billion in revenue from games offered on the iOS App Store worldwide in 2020; Nintendo’s total revenue was $13.38 billion. Apple, a company that makes no dedicated gaming hardware or first-party games itself, generates the same money from gaming as the world’s most iconic video game maker.
Managing to do this while not seeming to put in much effort is a testament to the immense scale that the company operates at.
Alba isn’t some lengthy blockbuster, but it’s a warm and kind-hearted game that I think would appeal to anyone who loves nature or just needs a bit of an escape to a summery island of friendly people and cute animals.
And these days…who doesn’t?
You can find Alba: A Wildlife Adventure on Apple Arcade.