For the first hour of La Mulana, you will be consumed by hate. Hate for this evil game and its inscrutable ways. Hate for the birds and the bats and whatever that weird thing that just killed you was. But most of all, hate for yourself, as you die and reload the game for the umpteenth time, asking yourself - not for the last time - 'Why am I putting myself through this?'
It's a good question and one we've often wondered as we've seen people play Dark Souls, or struggled through its hellish gauntlets ourselves. You play these games not because they're fun - although, when you're on a roll, there's nothing sweeter - but because the designer has just smacked you with a duelling glove. You can either step up to the plate or flee in the other direction. Nobody will blame you if you go for option B.
Having said that, La Mulana isn't quite as brutal as Dark Souls, despite sharing similar design sensibilities. Based on the rock-hard 2005 freeware game, it follows an Indiana Jones-style treasure hunter as he explores a mysterious temple. Your only companions are your trusty whip and a laptop which performs a variety of functions from mapping to translating ancient tablets.
Temple Of Doom
The original game gave you no clue how to progress, but Nigoro's lushly remade WiiWare port throws in a few welcome changes to make things more manageable at the start. You now receive regular helpful emails from the surprisingly tech-savvy village elder, while hero Lemeza cracks his whip at a much faster rate.
The first will stop you getting stuck quite so often; the second makes killing enemies a snap. Neither undermine the mystery or challenge of the temple too much, so La Mulana's tough reputation remains intact.
La Mulana plays a bit like Super Metroid, presenting you with interlinked areas and a lot of freedom in the order you can go about things. Where it differs is in its difficulty. Save points are sparse, enemies hit hard and there are countless traps that will defeat unwary adventurers (and sometimes the wary ones) unless you know what to look for in advance.
However, while La Mulana is open on one hand, the other is closed tightly like a fist. Despite the new additions, there are mysteries that won't be revealed without a good bit of trial and error and a few hundred deaths.
Thankfully, that first hour of torture is followed by a moment of sublime realisation as you piece part of the jigsaw puzzle together. It won't all be plain sailing from then on but once you're given a glimpse of the temple's hard-won treasure, there's no going back.
La Mulana obviously isn't for everyone. And even if it does sink its claws into you, there will be moments when you'll give up in frustration and curse us for talking you into buying it. You'll be back. The traps may hurt, but that makes finally besting them all the sweeter. And besides, did Indy give up the first time a boulder tried to turn him into mince?