In the ancient ruins of La-Mulana, lies a buried temple said to contain the secret origin of life. Outside the mighty ruins lies a small village adorned with pointy tents. On the plains, children play and people go on about their daily business. One of the tents contains the elder Xplud, a bald goofball of a man that’s not quite there, who spends his time playing games and sending emails. He also opens up the dais to the gate of guidance. An odd device requiring weights to be triggered. These things show up all over the place and are the key to most puzzles. I also came across block puzzles, time-stopping, and walking through seemingly random walls. A whole shrew of problems to be solved by interpreting a cryptic clue on a tablet situated elsewhere. Naturally, the ruins are flooded with monsters, bats, and big bosses, blocking the path forward. Getting rid of the eight guardians is the main goal of the game, it just takes a long time to get there. The clue to a puzzle is found on a tablet in one room, which sends me on a while goose chase until I randomly stumble over the puzzle. Which usually require an item I’ve yet to discover.
I had to stop time, so I needed bombs to blast a wall. But to get those I had to beat a guardian, but to fight him I had to unlock his ankh. Which forced me to look for the key, but first I had to find the right puzzle. However in order to get there I had to kill bats, lots and lots of bats, that gleefully knocks me down cliffs and ladders. Made even more annoying by being unable to move again until I hit the ground. Luckily there is no fall damage unless there are spikes there. Yes, there is also a metric ton of sharp pointy things all over. Combat is a simple affair, it’s all about timing the hits on various enemies, since the pesky buggers hurt me on contract, causing knockback. Then there are the various ammo-consuming secondary weapons found in the ruins. The hardest part is jumping, which there is a lot of. Basically, the physics behind jumping makes almost any mid-air control impossible. I’ve yet to find a way to cancel the animation our recover mid-air when falling. Also, the resolution is quite crap.
Despite the annoying physics and frustrating gameplay elements, I can’t stop playing I’ve spent more than ten hours and am only halfway there. Naturally, this time can be cut down to under two hours if the time trial mode and achievements is anything to go by. La-mulana is a hard game, with a relatively open-ended approach to exploration, which makes well suited for speed runs and the enemy of children and achievement hunters. As an added challenge there is a hell temple that can be unlocked as well, with a forbidden treasure.
The original version of La-Mulana was an eight-bit freeware game made by the Japanese game studio Nigoro. Which got itself a successful Kickstarter and an updated remake, sold on Steam and various consoles. Along with updated graphics and a nice soundtrack. All in all, it is a solid indie game, for people who like exploring, puzzles, and platforms. You can watch my playthrough here and get it here.
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