Updated: Mar 22
Publisher – NIS America
Developer – NIGORO
Review Platform – Nintendo Switch
Release Date – March 17, 2020
Also Available – PS4, Xbox One
La-Mulana is a 2D side-scrolling action adventure puzzle-platformer with metroidvania elements of interconnecting maps and item collection. This game is difficult so READ THE GUIDE BEFORE PLAYING. There is a lot to do in the game. Exploring the ruins requires us to solve puzzles to gain access to hidden areas or open chests containing maps and such. Sometimes we’ll need to defeat mini bosses with certain weapons, and we need to find those weapons somewhere in the ruins. Enemies can cause damage easily to the point its buuuullshiiiit. Then there are traps we mistakenly activate damaging us enough to kill us off which is more buuuulllshiiiit. We’re so close to our goal (finding the entrance, solving the puzzle, finding the item) that we get back up and try again, and again, and again, and again, until we become stubborn and our new goal is to not let the game get the better of us.
La-Mulana 1 is about an archeologist named Lemeza Kosugi venturing into the ruins of La-Mulana in search of the Secret Treasure of Life. As an archeologist Lemeza has to use all his knowledge and wit to navigate through puzzles, traps, and enemies to survive in La-Mulana.
La-Mulana 2 is about Lemeza’s DAUGHTER Lumisa because Lemeza has gone missing. Lumisa explores the ruins of Eg-Lana known as an UPSIDE-DOWN version of La-Mulana.
READ THE GUIDE BEFORE PLAYING https://nisamerica.com/la-mulana-1-2/
La-Mulana 1 reminds me of an SNES game because movement feels a bit limited. We have the directional buttons to go left/right for this side scrolling game. Y for attack with main weapon, A for attack with sub-weapon, and B to jump. Now let me talk about jumping, oh my goodness, to jump at a direction we need to be in motion towards that direction THEN jump to land at a distance. We can’t jump and then direct Lemeza because he’ll just arc pathetically down like a limp asparagus. Later we acquire boots making us faster and as a result letting us jump further.
(-) is to look at the map, when you find a map, and (+) is menu to access all your items/weapon/software/etc. Its important to check the menu because in the game Lemeza has a laptop that deciphers tablets and glyphs helping us find hints to solve puzzles throughout the ruins. Outside and inside the ruins there are shops selling software for the laptop. The software helps Lemeza decipher glyphs enabling him to access hidden parts of the ruins. For example, after we find the Holy Grail, we’re able to fast travel to each saving point. The ruins are made of fields filled with rooms; each field has a “backside” with their own saving points, but we won’t be able to fast travel in the “backside” until we acquire a software. Its like “REALLY?! Now I need to find the shop that’s selling the software.” After getting the software DON’T FORGET TO DOWNLOAD because if you don’t then you won’t be taking advantage of its functions.
Earlier I mentioned La-Mulana has metroidvania elements of item collecting. From my experience after getting the boots I was able to jump further reaching areas I couldn’t before and discovering more treasure. In the ruins there is poisonous water we HAVE to swim through and Lemeza’s health decreases as we swim through the water. Thats kind of stressful because we need to get to point B before we die and we can't swim faster. Afterwards we find an item making us immune to the poison letting us swim in leisure.
We also do item collecting for weapons. Lemeza starts off with a whip to fight off monsters in the ruins. Later on we find a knife, axe, chain whip, etc. but the thing is though, we got to FIND them. Where are these weapons? They’re hidden throughout the ruins, ruins made of puzzles. Here is the situation I’m in: I need to defeat a guardian, Bahamut, but a whip is taking too long to defeat it. I read up an axe will defeat Bahamut faster. The axe is in the “backside” of a field. To reach the location of the axe I need a grapple claw to navigate through the area and coincidently the grapple claw can be found in the same field. See?! Item collecting.
La-Mulana 2 is like its predecessor except movement has improved, jumping and direction is more flexible like the developers made improvements. Eg-Lana’s ruins are also slightly different from La-Mulana, it seems they’re not as open. When I say “open” I mean La-Mulana’s ruins has so many passageways we could go anywhere and not know where it would lead us: the next field, back to starting point, hidden area, etc. Eg-Lana’s ruins gives us few options to explore and we could get stuck because we don’t know where else to go: is there a puzzle in this room? How do I solve this puzzle? Am I supposed to solve the puzzle in this room first? You need to be observant and look for clues indicating there’s a hidden dais to activate or a breakable wall and such.
GRAPHICS & MUSIC
La-Mulana 1 reminded me of a SNES game, retro. From the intro as the story is explained the script appears like its being typed to the music sounding like its composed from a synthesizer. You can’t help but feel nostalgia to older games like “wow this reminds me of Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest” but you know the quality of the game is from this decade because the design is clear and we can see details like the intricate designs for the glyphs.
La-Mulana 2 is like a brighter and more detailed version. We can see the different color shades and shadows creating depth and showcasing the details of each scene. For example; there are vases we break to get loot like money. In La-Mulana 1 the vase breaks, the money appears and drops. In 2 as the vase breaks the pieces spreads out, the money appears and bounces on the ground. The sound effects also improved by having the vase breaking with a resounding effect and they added a twinkle like sound as the coins bounce on the ground, klink klink klin kiln. Its like the developers made 2 with the thoughts “How can we make this a BETTER version?”
La-Mulana 1 & 2 is an amazing difficult game. If you’re a modern gamer don’t let the retro art style deceive you because this game will kick your ass. Boss fights have simple patterns but to make it difficult the enemy can cause damage easily just by grazing your archeologist. There’s lots of passageways to discover and then you need to solve the puzzle to find the hidden switch that activates the door to open. Defeating bosses and getting through pathways are within our reach and the game turns it around saying “Psyche! Thought I was gonna let you off easy? Yeah right!” Anyone planning to play this game I highly recommend reading the guide before playing La-Mulana. The guide is available here https://nisamerica.com/la-mulana-1-2/
To see some gameplay here's a past livestream where you can see how FRUSTRATING and ADDICTING La-Mulana can be.