What is it about retro platformers that people find so appealing? Is it the challenge? Is it merely being able to explore spaces without having to overdo yourself? Maybe it’s a little bit of both — and NIS America’s La Mulana 1 & 2 combo provides it in spades. They’re a bit on the tough side sometimes — maybe too tough for some — but the old-school thrills they bring are more than enough to satisfy. Just make sure not to grit your teeth too hard.
Prepare To Fight On This Journey
As noted, the adventure is split across two different games, but with a similar mantra that will test your skills to their very limits. The first La Mulana has you playing an adventurer exploring the hidden city, overcoming traps and deadly enemies. Then the second La Mulana follows suit years later, having you control the hero’s daughter as she tries to investigate his disappearance within the ruins, dealing with her own difficulties along the way. For games that are well over 10 years apart, the logic behind their design remains the same. And that’s something fans will surely appreciate.
La Mulana is built on a good deal of action, as you’ll deal with enemies big and small over the course of your journey, including a few boss enemies that will put you through your paces. But there are also puzzles that need to be figured out. This includes flipping switches and keeping an eye out for traps that could result in instant death. For example, just because a path to a new area looks completely accessible doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. The ceiling could come crashing down on you if you’re not careful. You’re going to die a lot within this game, so it doesn’t hurt to play things cautiously and do a little thinking.
You’ll Die. A Lot.
In fact, the difficulty is probably the biggest setback when it comes to the La Mulana package. Some people will become frustrated by the cheap traps, or how some enemies aren’t so easily overcome. But those that remember what the original game had in store should have expectations firmly in check and will take on the two-pack with just the right approach.
The developers did an outstanding job with the gameplay in both titles. Yes, it can be frustrating, but in the retro sense, both games deliver exactly as expected. The puzzles are ingenious once you figure them out (never to the point of impossible), and the action encounters deliver nicely as well.
And there is help, in the form of secondary characters that deliver messages to give you a hand. They can be a bit cryptic, but if you wanted everything spelled out for you, that would spoil it, right? These tie into the puzzles beautifully, so you can figure out what item is needed or what exactly you need to do is move forward. Again, patience. Goes a long way here.
Back To The Old Skewl
Another big factor that helps this package is the old-school design of both La Mulana 1 and 2. They resemble excellent 16-bit throwbacks, right down to the pixelated animations and cool boss designs. The visual flair of the level design shines through as well, even if you think you’ve got a good bead on things, only to find out…well, not really. It looks great both in handheld form and on TV, so no matter which way you play on Switch, you’ll be right at home. (It’s available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC as well.)
The music is soothing too, with the right adventurer tone going for it in both games. It would’ve been nice to hear some better sound effects to come along for the ride (or maybe a little voiceover?), but it fits the 16-bit style aesthetic. So, who am I to argue?
A Worthy Treasure For Those Ready To Go After It
What some players need to overcome in La Mulana 1 and 2 is their fear of moving ahead. There are times you’re going to get stuck, or even die multiple times if you’re not careful. But the game isn’t on the impossible side – this is something that requires you to think, something you don’t usually see in retro-flavored games. I was impressed at how well the two games mesh together, even with their separated development times, and how much of a complete package they end up forming. It may not be for everyone, but for those seeking a challenge with a bit of throwback flair, La Mulana is worth venturing into.
A bit on the difficult side, but hardcore retro players will be right at home with La Mulana 1 and 2.
Streamer and Cosplay Enthusiast