If metroidvania, retro style, action/puzzle, adventure games had a name, it would be La-Mulana. The platformer finally makes it's way to the Nintendo Switch, along with it's sequel La-Mulana 2. If you have never hear of La-Mulana, it's the closest thing we're going to get to a good Indiana Jones' game on the Nintendo Switch.
It belongs in a museum!
First released in Japan in 2005, and released in the US on Wii Ware for Nintendo in 2012 and the PS Vita in 2015, the first La-Mulana has you playing the whip welding, fedora wearing, archaeologist Lemeza set out to explore the ruins of La-Mulana, to find his father, who set out to discover the mysteries of La-Mulana (I wasn't kidding when I said this was an Indiana Jones inspired game).
The game is inspired by the retro style games of the 80's. Not only does the game look like something straight out of the 80's, but the difficulty is equal to that of games from that era. That's not a bad thing, in fact, it's pallet cleansing compared to some of the other games out there today. Fans of 80's style games or players that are looking for more of a challenge will welcome this change in pace.
We are going to die!
That being said, the game is pretty difficult, and there isn't much of help for the player, outside of a laptop, where Lemeza receives emails from the village chief to give him some hints. There are a lot of puzzles in this game, and some are not very straight forward; the game will make you think. Taking notes throughout the game is highly recommended. So is saving a lot. Because you are going to die, a lot. But figuring out the puzzle is such a great feeling and it's not something you get in a lot of games today.
You call this archaeology?
The game allows you to explore the ruins of La-Mulana however you wish. There are certain items that you will absolutely need, like the Holy Grail, that's the only spoiler I'm going to give you, but for the most part you can dive into the game go anywhere, there isn't anything stopping you from going into another section of the game before beating a boss. Probably not advisable, but doable.
Each area of the ruins has a different look and different music to accompany the change in scenery. The music is probably one of the unsung heroes of the game, it's beautifully done and really fits with each section of the ruins.
The game play is pretty simple. You can jump, attack with your main weapon, the starting weapon is a whip, but there are plenty others you find, and sub weapons you find along the way as well. You'll also want to get yourself a hand scanner and a glyph reader, as both of these items will be invaluable in your exploration of the ruins; both of these items will allow you to read tablets throughout the game, which will give you hints. Scan everything you find, including skeletons, as you never know where you might get your next clue.
Fortune and Glory kid, Fortune and Glory
In each section of the ruin there is a boss battle, and much like the games from the 80's, each boss will require you to understand their pattern to be able to defeat it. To get a boss to appear will also require you to have certain items, which will also require you to solve the puzzles in that section of the ruin.
The game can be quite lengthy depending on how quickly you can solve the puzzles in the game. It's advisable to take your time as you explore the ruins. And as I said before, save a lot. Since the game has been out for some time, there are plenty of guides out there for you to look up. I would advise that you try to figure out the puzzles on yourself; figuring out the puzzle on your own is so satisfactory, and probably one of the best aspects of the game. But if you need a hint, know that there are plenty of guides out there.
La-Mulana 2 follows Lemeza's daughter, as she searches for her father. The game was part of a kickstarter campaign that reached it's goal in 2014. The game plays much like the first game, but the sprites look a bit brighter. The game's overall tone is a different than the first game as well, while the first game certainly had some corny parts, the second game turns that up quite a bit. Outside the brighter sprites, the game also incorporates artwork of the NPC characters when you interact with them. Personally, I preferred the direction of the first game over the second, but both are fun and will provide plenty of challenge.
Final Score: B+
La-Mulana 1 & 2 are difficult puzzle platfomers, there's no question about that. For those that are looking for a challenge or are looking for a throw back to 80's platformers, these games are right up your alley. The puzzles are challenging, the level design is well done, and the boss battles are fun! Yes these games are inspired by the games from the 80's, however, the incorporation of the level design, the artwork, and music come straight out of the modern era of games. So get ready to don your fedora and wield your whip, if you are prepared for the challenge!
The Tip and The Top:
Incorporates 80's platformer concepts with modern gaming techniques
Solving puzzles is satisfying, when you figure them out
Boss battles are well done and straight out of 80's era of gaming
The Flip and The Flop:
The story is a bit corny
Some of the puzzles can be frustratingly difficult
Review copy provided by NIS America