What's La-Mulana? That's a question I found myself asking at the end of last year. I saw the first couple video's of a full play through on Youtube and instantly I was interested in playing the game myself before I continued to view the rest of the play through. I downloaded the game and the needed English language patch and I was ready to dive in. Fast forward about a year and I finally finished La-Mulana, I did everything. Found all the collectibles, all items and earlier this very night I beat the ridiculously difficult Hell Temple.
La-Mulana was released for the PC in 2005 developed by the then known as Gr3 Project who I believe go by the name Nigoro. La-Mulana was created to be a tribute to the mainly Japanese MSX computer system and especially the game Maze of Galious. The MSX came out in 1983 and didn't really catch on outside of Japan. Konami was a big supporter of the MSX releasing many of their most famous franchises on the system. Metal Gear, Castlevania, Gradius, the list goes on and on. La-Mulana is a throwback to that time in gaming, a time when games didn't hold your hand and you had to have the skill and the know how to figure out the puzzles in the game you're trying to finish.
You play as Lemeza Kosugi and Archeologist out to one up his father by getting to the treasure of the ancient city of La-Mulana. You arrive at a small village on the outskirts of the ruins and as you enter the madness starts. The play style is similar to a Castlevania game, as Lemeza uses a whip with various subweapons. He also behaves a lot like Simon Belmont as he suffers from the infamous Castlevania/Ninja Gaiden jump back when he gets hit. And yeah it's as frustrating in this game as it was in the other's I mentioned. It also has the feel of Metroid or the many Metroidvanias out there, you hunt items to get to places in zones you couldn't get to before.
From a mechanic standpoint La-Mulana is a well made game. The controls are tight and feel great with the way this game is made. The one thing that's a pain to deal with is the grapple claw item which let's you wall jump. That can be tricky at times but once you master it you can pull it off no problem.
The graphics aren't the best I've ever seen but with GR3 wanting the game to look like a MSX game they did an amazing job of making it look like that. I like the overall look of the game and it's great to play a game that leaves something to your imagination in the age of graphics of substance that we live in now.
But the one area La-Mulana excels at is the music! The music in this game is AMAZING! Every song is memorable, I find myself humming some random song from this game almost all the time. I downloaded the sound track and I listen to it any chance I get. I'm even listening to it as I write this, it's so good. The only music I grew tired of was the Hell Temple music and that's probably because Hell Temple was agony and the music was just bothering me after awhile. The core game took me 24 in game hours to finish and that entire time I wanted to hear every song as often as I could. I may be going on and on about this but I can't stress enough how good the music is in this game.
Speaking of the Hell Temple, this game is very hard. Some of the puzzles are very devious and you'll pull out some hairs trying to figure out what to do. Added to that at the beginning of the game Lemeza is very fragile and a few hits can kill you. As you power up death is really only an option against bosses but some of them are brutal to fight and can take multiple tries to get by. A saving grace in the ruins are the monuments or gravestones. Every solution is on a monument somewhere in the ruins, they're not always in the same zone as the puzzle and you may find some solutions way before you even encounter the puzzle so you absolutely need to pay attention or use a walkthrough. I can level with you here and say I eventually caved in and started using a walkthrough. Some parts of this game are insane to figure out and I would love to meet someone who made it through this one without some sort of a hint guide or anything like that. Even with the guide the game is still a ton of fun as the story and such are interesting and the game is just plain fun to play, that is until Hell Temple.
Hell Temple is the extra zone at the end of the game. After you have everything you can unlock Hell Temple and try to get through it. Hell Temple is one of the most difficult things I've ever done in a game ever. I made it a good way in without help but I eventually had to consult the La-Mulana Wiki and watch some videos on Youtube to help get through it. But when I did I felt a great sense of accomplishment and I was glad I took that challenge but it's something I will never do again, even if I replay La-Mulana the Hell Temple can stay locked up and it's treasures can stay hidden.
Right now La-Mulana is a freeware PC game but sometime next year it's suppose to be coming out on Wiiware. The graphics have been improved greatly and the game looks amazing. They are having to remove the MSX references due to copywrites and all that jazz. It looks like they're adding in substitute ROMS to replace all the MSX games you find in the ruins but we'll see how that works. I've heard they're going so far to make Hell Temple even harder than the current games version of it and that's not what I want to hear but I say bring it on! It's been confirmed that Hell Temple will not be in the base game download due to Nintendo's Wiiware game size limitation but it will be released as free DLC I think the day the game comes out or shortly after it's released.
Either way La-Mulana is a game that should be played by anyone who enjoys old school 2D games. If you download the PC version or wait for the Wiiware version you should seriously play it.
La-Mulana - 10 out 10
Link to the La-Mulana wiki, you can find information about the game and where to download it.