La Mulana is not your friend.
Let’s just get that out of the way right now. If you had any illusions that this charming, quirky little 2D platformer actually felt something for you, now’s the time to let them go. La Mulana isn’t friendly. It doesn’t feel remorse. And God knows, it definitely doesn’t pity you. What it does, however, is find new and efficient ways to stab you, electrocute you, kill you, trap you in a hellish murderpit, and drown you. That is, it will do these things when you actually figure out what the hell it is that you’re supposed to be doing, and where you’re supposed to be doing it.
La Mulana was developed by a small company known as Nigoro a while back, and was remade for WiiWare a bit later. I first found this game through Steam, which I swear has learned my weakness to the phrase “Metroidvania,” because that seems to be all it ever shows me these days. Needless to say, I blacked out and before I realized what happened I was the proud owner of La Mulana, which is pretty candid about letting me know that it wants me dead.
There’s not much story to go on here. You play the role of Professor Lemza, who after a reportedly harrowing journey manages to find his way to a small village outside of the notorious ruins of La Mulana. Lemza’s father vanished into the ruins a while back, but its unclear whether or not Lemza is there for the fame and fortune or to find out what happened to daddy.
There’s one person to talk to, an old crone of a man who serves as elder for the village in the most irritating way possible. He hands Lemza some software to install on his trusty laptop, tells you to go explore, and then you promptly wander into a trap and die a gruesome and potentially hilarious death almost immediately.
No, that last part isn’t part of the story. I’m just being realistic.
Here’s the deal with La Mulana. There are puzzles EVERYWHERE. Some are obvious, some are obscure, and some you’ll never quite figure out because you’re too paranoid about being murdered. There are some hints, sure, but they’re presented in the form of archaic riddles on hidden tablets throughout the land. Some of these tablets are obviously going to help you down the line, and others… well, you’re not sure. It’s possible, you guess, that you’ll need to know how to count to 10 in the ancient LaMulana-ese, but is it probable? Who even knows?
There are eyes that will electrocute you if you hit the wrong blocks, and enemies that will electrocute you just because they are dicks. There are swinging sawblades and powerups that never quite make the game easier. There are instant death traps that are triggered shortly after defeating annoying sub bosses. But slowly as you progress, the tablets begin to tell a story about La Mulana, and it’s role in this world.
It’s a hell of a story… if you last long enough piece together the plot.
And then there are the boss fights. The aggravating, pulse pounding, “oh you have got to be kidding me” boss fights. There eight different areas in La Mulana, each with a back end that serves as a zone in its own right. Each of the eight lands have a boss that will murder you, for laughs.
They will murder you again. And again. And then you’ll save up some money, buy about a bajillion shurikans, and then die more quickly than you did the first time. You’ll set the game down, maybe watch some Netflicks. But it’s too late. You know that boss is still there, just staring at you, watching, judging. They only escape is to take that ugly bastard down once and for all.
What’s that, you say? Why should you subject yourself to this kind of torture? Well, possibly because La Mulana is fantastic. The world it weaves is a wonderful background for the pure challenge of it all. How far can you make it? How many puzzles can you solve? Will you succeed (no). It feels like you’re putting your mind to the test, while getting absolutely boiled alive in the Inferno Caverns. Or eaten by a giant fish. Oh, and don’t forget that one room where the floor smashes you against the ceiling without warning. And then there’s that one place where you have to stop time because everything is being horrible in your general direction.
Good luck, intrepid platformer enthusiast! You’re going to need it.
Filed under: Games |