Xbox Game Pass has featured a variety of both triple-A titles and more under-the-radar indie gems, and the subscription service has been a boon for gamers looking to experience a little bit of everything. The latest underrated indie game to join Game Pass is Umurangi Generation, the cel-shaded photography simulator from the Aotearoa New Zealand developer Origame Digital.
The game's mix of stylish aesthetics, a sharply political story, and arcadey gameplay helped it stand out when it was originally launched. It has only aged better since then. If you're just jumping into it now, though, you should keep in mind a few things in mind.
8 Take Your Time
Umurangi Generation's story isn't apparent at first glance – you might take in the neon sights and sounds of its dystopian world and sense that something is off, but the game won't beat you over the head with the plot.
But this is also an immersive game with a lot to say, so don't rush through the levels. This is a game that's best enjoyed if you take your time and take in the sights and sounds, really training your camera on each individual poster and person.
7 … But Not Too Much
That being said, you can't just linger on each level forever. At the top of the screen, you'll notice a timer ticking up. Each level in Umurangi Generation has a ten-minute time limit.
It's not strict – you can go over it if you need it -, but if you complete all of your objectives within the time limit, you'll earn bonuses and camera upgrades at the end of the level that can come in handy later.
6 Bounties Might Be Hidden
It's a good thing that the game encourages you to take your time, since you might have to really scour each level in order to find what you're looking for. Umurangi Generation is structured around Bounties, which are specific photographic assignments for each level.
But instead of directly stating what you're looking for, the game will usually phrase things a little more cryptically, and the specific item will probably be hidden in an unassuming place. Its levels are a bit like puzzles, and you'll have to think critically.
5 Keep An Eye Out For The Film Canisters
On top of the required bounties in each level, Umurangi Generation hides several small canisters of film in each level. These are totally optional collectibles and you can ignore them if you like, but collecting them comes with a few benefits.
Each one will restock the roll of film that you're working with, allowing you to take more photos within each level. Moreover, if you're able to collect all of them within the time limit, you'll receive a bonus at the end of the level, while the process of finding each one will draw your attention to the game's underlying story.
4 Don't Ignore The Bonus Bounties
Each level features a few required bounties, but you'll also receive optional ones on the side. With the timer bearing down on you, it might be tempting to ignore the bonus objectives.
However, it's worth completing the optional bounties as well. Doing so within the time limit will open up additional equipment and more creative post-processing options for your photos, allowing you to create even cooler pieces of digital art.
3 The Game Isn't Over When You Complete Each Level
Umurangi Generation contains 12 levels, each with their own set of bounties, hidden objectives, and film canisters. But there's more to do even once you finish all 12. At the end of the game, you'll unlock a pair of new modes that break the gameplay down in different ways.
The first one is Creative Mode, which removes the time limit, gives you unlimited film stock, and allows you to tweak level aspects like the time of day and the presence or absence of fog. The second is Speedrun Mode, which challenges you to complete all the bounties as fast as you can.
2 Take Advantage Of The Movement Options
Umurangi Generation's visual style and music owes a huge debt to Jet Set Radio, the cool-as-heck graffiti simulator for the Dreamcast. Jet Set Radio's raditude is defined by its anti-authoritarian stance, its cel-shaded graphics, and the joyful experience of skating around a sunny city causing mischief and avoiding cops.
The Special Edition of Umurangi Generation, which is the version available on Nintendo Switch and Xbox Game Pass, adds in a new feature that pays further homage to its stylish forbear. The game allows you to move around on skates, which gets you around its levels much more quickly and makes the speedrun mode a breeze. Furthermore, you can also graffiti all over the levels with paint canisters, which is a cool little touch.
1 Art Is Subjective
Most photography games are pretty specific in terms of their objectives. The Pokemon Snap games, for instance, will require specific Pokemon in specific poses – the framing is less important than the subject of the photo. Umurangi Generation, however, doesn't work like this.
The game will grade your photography based on color, content, and composition, but the way that you incorporate these elements is up to you. It's one of the rare photography games that focuses on creative expression, rather than following commands.
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