La Mulana I & II Review
La-Mulana is a series that started way back in Japan in 2005 and was built from the ground up as a homage to the MSX. There was a remake released on the Wii and a port for the Vita also, it is this remake that La Mulana & La Mulana 2 are based off. The graphics have been overhauled, ditching the old MSX style graphics in favour of something a little more 16-bit.
In these 2D action-adventure games, you will have your reflexes tested, along with your wits and more importantly your patience. Even though the MSX style is long gone, the brutal difficulty of mid to late 80’s game design still remains to make both games quite challenging.
First up, let me tell you La-Mulana does NOT hold your hand; The game expects you to pay attention and pick up on hints on how to progress. On my first hour or so of play, I headed into the ruins only to be completely confused on how to progress. I returned to the village area and purchased a hand scanner from a vendor, With the scanner equipped I quickly learnt you can read stone tablets. These very tablets taught me I could save my game by pressing up at them, something I had been wondering about for a while, I felt like an idiot. It was this moment that I realized I was not just playing any old action-adventure games, but I was in fact playing a Metroidvania style game. Once I realized this, things progressed a lot more smoothly.
In La-Mulana you play as Lemeza, who is clearly inspired by Indiana Jones. An adventurer out to explore the tomb within La-Mulana. Lemeza has an assortment of weapons you can purchase, but predominantly you will be using your whip to take care of most enemies.
In true Metroidvania style, you often will find yourself stumbling upon an area or obstacle that you just can’t seem to get past only to find an item or upgrade that allow you to overcome said obstacle. The bulk of the game is action platforming and trying to figure out these organic puzzles and when you do you really feel like you have achieved something!
Each area within the temple has its own music, distinctive art style and boss, a lot of these bosses can be tackled in any order upon finding an item in that area to summon them. The bosses are inventive and take up 50% of the screen as all good bosses should!
The art & music change in each area reminded me a lot of Symphony of the Night, after backing tracking enough through an area you get to know it like the back of your hand and no longer need to rely so heavily on the map.
Music in the game is pretty well done, however, I opted for the ‘chiptune’ setting in the options, which restored the 2005’s original score. The tracks fit the atmosphere very well and don’t feel out of place like the music did in last week’s review for Langrisser.
Early in the game you received a Laptop for the village elder, with this laptop you can install upgrades, such as the scanner and an application to decipher Glyph’s, you will be needing these, but the problem is you only have a set amount of storage for apps on your laptop so you have to be somewhat tactical with what you have installed. Additional software’s can be purchased from vendors for a fee.
The main issue I had with La-Mulana is the controls, well specifically, the jumping controls. Lemeza is extremely stiff, this is no Mario game. Once you jump you are committed to whatever direction you have chosen, however, you can change direction at the apex of your jump. I know this was something MSX games used to do a lot, but I guess I’ve been spoiled for years with 2D Mario games and found it a little difficult at first to adjust.
La-Mulana has a playtime of approximately 30 hours just to beat the story, this will obviously vary depending on your playtime.
Following the success of the first game, La-Mulana 2 was originally released quite recently, Well in 2018. This time you are put in the boots of Lumisa who is trying to find her father, Lemeza, the protagonist of the first game. You are retracing your father’s steps from the first game until you stumble upon a whole ‘new’ set of ruins, Eg-Lana.
La-Mulana 2 is much more of the same as the first game, however, this time the game feels a little more polished. Graphics have seemed to have been improved with NPC portraits being the most obvious upgrade, if only slightly, and you have more dialogue options now when talking to NPC’s. A few qualities of life improvements have been added to the game’s mechanics including the ability to jump and grab onto ladders mid-air like Megaman, but most excitingly though is the problems I had with La-Mulana’s jumping mechanics are somewhat fixed. You have a much better feeling of fluidity with Lumisa.
In terms of Gameplay La-Mulana, 2 is a little more challenging than the original game, giving fans of the first game ‘more of that’ style of level design. La-Mulana 2 has a heavier reliance on NPC characters to drive progression along, whereas in the first game you were pretty left to your own devices, I didn’t mind this that much, but it did break up the pacing somewhat. In fact, due to this very reason, the world felt a little more fleshed out and more interesting.
La-Mulana 2 will challenge you from start to finish and the main campaign will take about 40hours+ depending on playstyle.
In conclusion, La-Mulana 1 & 2 are great Action-adventure Metroidvania games. They are geared towards a certain type of player, the type who has a lot of patience & that patience is rewarded. They both follow the same basic gameplay loop; you explore, you reach an obstacle, you backtrack (or die), get the item/upgrade to overcome obstacle & progress. These games won’t be for everyone and the challenge offered may be too much for some, however, if you stick with these games, they are very rewarding. La-Mulana 1 & 2 are not designed to be completed in one sitting, they are sprawling adventures that you need to chip away, little by little, over time!