Categories See All →
Review: La-MulanaLa-Mulana indie Nigoro
Release Date: Out Now
ESRB: N/A (E suggested)
La-Mulana is a game with an interesting history. Initially started back in 2001, the game finally had an official release in 2006. This was in Japan though, and the game was meant to pay homage to MSX games of the past. In fact, it was billed as a "secret" game from the MSX library, although it was of course a more recent indie project. From then on, gamers in the west caught wind of the entertaining game and hoped to see it launch officially here.
There was a time when it was announced a remake of La-Mulana would come to WiiWare. Unfortunately, these plans were squashed as were the dreams of fans. That is, until now as Playism Games have published the game in the west as a PC download title. Now that it's finally easily available in English is it worth buying?
The answer to this question depends on what kind of gamer you are. If you are one who loves immediate gratification and doesn't like working very hard to play through games, then stay far away. If you just like to have easy experiences with games then find something else to check out as this game will chew you right up. La-Mulana is a Metroidvania style game and feels just like it belongs back in the days of gaming when that style was so popular.
Even though it's modern, the game feels entirely retro. While you do receive hints through emails and by reading messages, there is little else to guide you as you start. There is no tutorial or obvious information text when you begin. All you know is that you're dropped into a town and are searching for treasure hidden down deep in tombs. Although progressing through the game will require you to buy certain objects earlier on, the game never says to do so. You're left to sift around and find you can't read any signs. The game hopes you'll realize this means you need a tool to progress - and you do. Without it you could do a lot of searching, but then you'd not see hints to solving puzzles.
Similarly, the game never explains to you how exploration will work out. Hopefully you'll realize that the game is very much like older ones in that there is a lot of obscure stuff you'll need to do to progress. For example, there are invisible walkways, secret paths in walls, and a lot more. If you weren't raised on games with these features then you will probably be extremely surprised when you first encounter something like it. Once you do though then you truly start to realize what you're up against. This is a game that's entirely self aware of itself and that makes it fun if you understand and unbearable if you can't find the "secret" ways through.
Patience is a virtue in La-Mulana. It controls very well but movement isn't as easy as you might hope. For example, when you're falling, you can not easily control where you will land. Once you've set your jump height and direction you're pretty much going to fall in a small area. Mastering the controls is not too difficult since there aren't many, but what you must learn to control is your own patience. If you think you can just rush through stages with no problem then you're going to find yourself dying a lot. Enemies all have their own attack patterns, traps lurk around every corner, and bosses will stop your progress readily.
La-Mulana is hard but not entirely unfair. A lot of the design choices are smart, especially things like boss placement. At the very beginning of the game you could simply rush around on land instead of finding the entrance to the cave. However, if you did you'd be met with a brutish beast which you simply can't defeat yet. By placing enemies like this it lets you know this is the wrong way right now. The game manages to tell you what to do by simple design choices instead of ever having to speak a word to players.
If you are a fan of games like Castlevania and Metroid then you'll probably feel like this is a game you missed from your childhood. Although the graphics have been updated so they no longer look like a MSX title, they still are pixel-based and appealing. The world is incredibly expansive and is filled with all the secrets you would expect from older games. There are also many upgrades which help your character evolve from a weakling explorer into something almost superhuman. Working toward that goal is a long, tough journey but feels so rewarding each and every time you gain something new.
A variety of weapons, equippable items, and other upgrades are all a necessary part of the game. If you expect to beat it in an evening though, even with all these goods, then you're not giving La-Mulana a lot of credit. If you were someone who has played the game enough to know every little trick, then you could probably beat it in a few hours. For those taking their first run through the world though it will take much longer. Expect to be playing for anywhere from 10 to 20 hours before finishing your journey.
The music is something worth mentioning as you'll be stuck listening to it throughout all those hours of game time. Thankfully, it manages to have an addictive soundtrack. The game contains both the remake soundtrack as well as the original, although these tracks aren't all accessible at the start. Different areas have different key tracks and each one is a joy to listen to. Once you hear some songs they'll probably get stuck in your head long after you've closed the game.
La-Mulana is an incredibly well done game that will appeal to certain gamers. Those who grew up with these kind of games or who love a real challenge will flock to it. Some who are on the fence might even find the challenge addicting after giving it a shot. Then there are the crowd who will balk at how unfair it is at times. That's the nature of the beast with La-Mulana and it is quite a journey if you can survive it.
+ Incredibly well-done Metroidvania game
+ Many equippables and goodies to make use of
+ Lovely pixel graphics and fitting soundtrack
- Some traps are just unfair
- Lack of explanation may leave you confused for a while
Overall: 8 (out of 10)
If you're looking for a blast from the past that'll challenge and entertain you then La-Mulana is a perfect choice.
Top Stories From Around the Web