La-Mulana (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 10.06.2020

Review for La-Mulana on Nintendo Switch

In 2005, Takumi Naramura released a freeware title that was a response to how easy video games were becoming. His little project was a throw-back to MSX games he grew up, with a bit of Indiana Jones meets Castelvania. This was La-Mulana, and along with Cave Story, it paved the way for the indie game revolution that was to come. In 2012, it got a 16-bit overhaul, and was ported to the Wii, and now the Nintendo Switch. Just what secrets lie in the ruins of La-Mulana Temple?

"Metroidvanias" are a dime a dozen today. Everyone and their grandmother have made one, it seems. However, nobody else has made something as challenging or as smart as La-Mulana... except for maybe its sequel. This genre has also become increasingly easy, with progression being spoon-fed to players. Takumi Naramura aims to take everyone back to a time when actually completing a game gave a grand sense of accomplishment. La-Mulana succeeds in this regard, despite the walls that will block most gamers from beating it.

At first glance, this looks like nothing special. This false sense of security will disarm anyone approaching it with its aesthetically pleasing pixel art and animation. Not Dr. Jones, Lemeza Kosugi controls like a Belmont in the 8-bit days, but with a greater sense of fluidity and slightly more control in the air. Even basic combat seems simple enough with whipping and shooting mythical monsters and skeletons. This is until Lemeza has to actually plunder La-Mulana and the ruins.

Lemeza has a laptop that has various functions. Some of its features are basic gameplay elements like an auto map or messenger with NPCs back in the village. The laptop gets more advanced software that can be purchased or discovered, like the app that allows Lemeza to read the ancient texts or modifying the various fairy attacks. Where things get interesting is that software can be combined for surprising results that can make things much easier. The catch is that the laptop has only so much memory and it is not possible to have all the systems running at once. This wrinkle is what makes the power-up system in La-Mulana so unique from any other non-linear 2D platformer.

Screenshot for La-Mulana on Nintendo Switch

The dungeons in La-Mulana are diabolically designed, and even the first one has cryptic puzzles in it that only an archaeologist could understand. Braving the aptly named 'Hell Temple,' requires nerves of steel, a steady hand, and calm mind if you ever hope to make it through this thing in one piece. Having the right items, understanding the numbering system that the ancients used, and figuring out what incidental background symbols mean is paramount to beating La-Mulana. It can be incredibly mystifying, and it is likely not many gamers will have the patience to master the kinds of challenges in these stages, but it is extremely satisfying to have that "eureka!" moment.

Level design is insanely intricate, and is overwhelmingly complex. It is impressive how far the developer took things when it comes to how so much is connected. It makes the world feel very cohesive when hitting a switch on one side of the world will affect things on the furthest end. Even the traps are insidiously placed and have a logic to their existence. It really does feel like La-Mulana temple was built by a race of advanced ancients.

At times, the constant ordeals faced in La-Mulana can be exhausting. The rousing and exciting music rarely lets up, only pushing Lemeza forward to keep on exploring to find the secrets of Mother and the ruins. There is a lot to uncover, so much so it can take over 25 hours just to make it to the end. Even then, that is not seeing all that this has to offer.

Screenshot for La-Mulana on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

La-Mulana is an exceptional metroidvania, but only to those who are capable of braving its meticulous ruins. Understanding the symbols and meaning behind so much of its cryptic messages is only half of the battle. Being able to meet it physically is another story, since the enemies are as insane as the ones in old-school Castlevania, and the traps are more methodically implemented. The adventure is epic with quite a few miles to it.

Developer

GR3 Project

Publisher

NIS America

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   

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