La-Mulana EX (PS Vita) Review

By Drew Hurley 10.03.2015 2

Review for La-Mulana EX on PS Vita

La-Mulana EX is the latest incarnation of a game originally released only in Japan on PC in 2005. Since then it has been re-released on PC and WiiWare in both Japan and the West, but this is the first time it has come to either a Sony machine or a handheld. It's a great fit for a mobile platform and the Vita in particular, although there is a slight risk with the frustrating nature of the game there could be considerable damage to the handheld after throwing it a number of times…

The game follows Professor Lemeze Kosugi as he undertakes an adventure into the ruins of La-Mulana, guided by a strange old man who sends cryptic and slightly insane emails… some to help give hints to the mysteries of the ruins while others say things like "I'm not bald. Ice is slippery. It can't be helped" He's certainly a unique character! Lemeze is equipped with only a whip, an old laptop, and infinite re-spawns to begin with and is immediately thrown head-first into the world of adventure, and with no time for tutorials, those strange emails are all the tutorial the player will get.

The ruins are made up of about 20 unique environments and each hold rewards to help deal with the challenges - a new fire dungeon filled with pools of lava will damage Lemeze but acquiring a cloak of ice can lessen this, slippery paths in the pyramids can be traversed when Lemeze has acquired the winged Hermes boots, and many more examples. Each of these pieces of equipment allow for further exploration into the world and unlocking new areas and aspects of the game, from double jumps to clinging to walls - each piece of equipment is worth getting, if only for how the gameplay develops.

Screenshot for La-Mulana EX on PS Vita

On top of the equipment acquired to assist in the exploration, there are numerous primary and secondary weapons to unlock, giving the option of swapping the whip for a faster and stronger knife, but the speed and damage increase comes with a much smaller attack area or perhaps switching to larger and much stronger axe, which is balanced by being a lot slower. Each has pros and cons to weigh up, depending on the enemies faced. The secondary weapons consist of shuriken, spears, caltrops, and more, which all have a set amount of ammo. Each can be particularly useful in certain situations and against certain bosses, for example, the flare gun that shoots straight up is useful against bosses that fly but the ammo for these are very scarce and the currency needed to buy more from the shops scattered around the world is even scarcer.

Each of the dungeons is available in a non-linear fashion. Although some areas are unavailable until specific bosses are killed or items are acquired, there is no progression of "Complete dungeon one for item, which opens dungeon two where the item to complete dungeon three can be found." There's going to be a lot of backtracking and exploring to be able to uncover all the secrets of each area and solve every puzzle.

Screenshot for La-Mulana EX on PS Vita

The puzzles spread throughout the numerous environments can be heavily frustrating. This is an old school game at heart and expects the player to be able to think for themselves, with little to no hints for how to solve some of the puzzles and maddening moments where there is no clue where to go next. A switch in one room may open a door numerous screens away with no hint as to where it has opened. Some walls are destructible, revealing hidden paths to progress, but the only way to find out if they are is to hit them… and there are deadly traps that will instantly kill with no warning. Returning players from previous incarnations would usually have an edge here since the game is popular in speed-running communities, but the developer has altered puzzles and levels slightly to keep those folks on their toes.

The challenge of La-Mulana EX isn't limited just to the riddles and puzzles scattered through the world, though. They certainly are the primary focus, but so is the combat. There are a ton of different enemies throughout the game, with different abilities and attack patterns to learn. These enemies have an extra focus in this latest incarnation as the developer has added an enemy bestiary to show off some of the original production art that was created. The mini-bosses can be a decent enough challenge, requiring quick responses and some practice. Bosses are a step beyond this, with each of the Guardians of La-Mulana EX being a considerable nut to crack that even the most seasoned of gamers will find they need numerous attempts to defeat as they work through learning the attack patterns and what weapons work best against them.

Screenshot for La-Mulana EX on PS Vita

In general, combat in La-Mulana EX feels very fluid and enjoyable, although some moments of combat can feel unfair. Getting struck while in mid-air is a particular annoyance as it can result in Lemeze falling back through multiple screens, undoing any progress made. There is also a strange health system and the player will find green orbs by killing enemies and destroying things in the dungeons. When they collect the same amount of the total health, the health bar is refilled. Finding Sacred Orbs also expands the size of the health pool, meaning the more the health bar grows, the harder it is to refill. There are two locations with healing springs but teleporting back to them between progressions can get very old, very quickly.

Fans of this game will be happy to hear that an official sequel to La-Mulana was proposed and fully backed on Kickstarter and is currently on schedule to be released either later this year or early next. La-Mulana EX results in a play-through of upwards of 25 hours, and then even after the game is over, there are more trials awaiting, with a bonus dungeon, time attack mode, and with an even harder mode to attempt for the especially masochistic gamers out there.

Screenshot for La-Mulana EX on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

La Mulana EX is a very polarising game. The difficulty can be completely off-putting to some gamers, yet for those looking for a challenge this stands head and shoulders above most of the offerings out there. Those who can overcome the difficulty and conquer La-Mulana EX will find a stellar game of surprising depth that belongs alongside Cave Story and Spelunky as examples of the best of the genre.

Developer

Pygmy Studio

Publisher

Rising Star Games

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I won the Wiiware version on Cubed3. Very difficult game.

Our member of the week

Cool, I didn't know a sequel was coming. I'll have to look that up and keep hope that it'll come to Wii U or 3DS.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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