LA-Mulana – What We Think:
La-Mulana is a room-based side-scrolling Metroidvania adventure game released in 2012 by EnjoyUp for the Wii. This Indiana Jones-inspired action title is a remake of the 2005 game of the same name by the same developers: GR3 project with updated graphics and “decreased diffulty,” as the original was notoriously unforgiving.
While at first this seems like another cash grab by a developer doing the whole “HD” remake thing that was so popular in 2012, they actually bring some improved and interesting new features to the title, one of which is support for XBOX 360 controllers (PC). It doesn’t sound like much, but the feature adds a lot to the game’s playability and shifts it from a keyboard-mashing platformer to a smoother experience, though unfortunately it inherits all of the original’s control issues.
Starting out with a whip and a laptop via which you access your email, you set off to explore the depths of the temple of La-Mulana. Simply reaching the temple is a task in itself; the game starts you off in a village whence you are expected to know what to do and how to get help. In fact it slightly tries to direct you to the right place by restricting access to the temple until you retrieve your laptop. The laptop you carry is given to you very early and contains the only help you will ever receive in the game – emails from an NPC (hey just like Hotline Miami!).
While the emails can be semi-informative, the entire game is based around tricking you into getting yourself killed. With the save points few and far between the game can mock you when you get close to a checkpoint just before you fall into a pit that doesn’t necessarily kill you but from which you can’t escape, in other words, a buggy sort of thing that would force you to replay the last thirty minutes of progress you have made.
The player’s controls are wonky and you will never feel at any given moment that you have complete control. Although this vastly works against you when trying to jump over a gap and kill an enemy, at the same time it can be slightly overlooked in part because the game isn’t meant to be so fast-paced. Where the game really shines is trying to clear a room with the least amount of damage taken. This requires you to think about everything you do before you do it then execute it, making it almost more of a puzzler.
There are some nice set-pieces and it works, beyond some questionable game direction, but in short, my takeaway with La-Mulana is that it isn’t for die-hards, nor it is for the faint of heart – rather it is seemingly designed to test your command over frustration. It is based around sending you to your death by withholding facts that don’t become known after you have done so. This would be completely understood to be the nature of the game (and by any definition the nature of any challenge wherein you learn your way) however with the save points so far and few in-between, I lean towards the theory that it’s somewhat sadistic, drilling the reminder that you will meet your demise in unforeseeable ways in your memory by virtue of the fact that seemingly every step you take therein, will be repeated.