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La Mulana review

Indie meets Indy in this old-fashioned platforming adventure. But does it belong in a museum?

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.

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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.

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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?


4 comments so far...
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  1. Pyron12 Tuesday 25th Sep 2012 at 15:25

    When I read the first sentence I thought that the score would be below 50%. My bad :lol: .

  2. MartinIsAwesome Tuesday 25th Sep 2012 at 17:26

    I don;t know if you're reviewer pickde up on this, but while I've been playing it I've realised that this game has quite a lot in common with The Legend of Zelda, aside from the difficulty. Each room having it's own puzzles to work out and the need of various tools/items to progress and the single screen rooms make it much more familiar as a Link adventure rather than one of Simon Belmonts outings.
    My only gripe so far has been that the control scheme for the sideways Wii Remote can feel a bit awkward. I'm more used to the 2 button being used to confirm options and 1 to go back, but here the buttons are switched. I would customise the controls to switch them to a more natural configeration, but that ends up switching jump/attack which were fine.
    However, while I haven't put a lot of hours into it so far, it's still a lot of fun and I'd personally think that this game is well worth the three-year wait.

  3. Layton link Tuesday 25th Sep 2012 at 18:32

    I do so enjoy me a dungeon esc crawler featureing a small india jones character...lord knows how many hours i have lost to splueky.This game does indeed seem very good...the art style,the music,the all meshes into a difficult and hard experience.I would buy this i suppose...actually..i have a wii...god why get this soonish..have to finish a lot of other games though...but thats besides the point.The game is a brilliant little gem and iam glad it got a remake for the wii.Hears to many other hours being lost to this little hatted man on search for treasure!

  4. oh dae su Wednesday 26th Sep 2012 at 17:19

    Crikey! This game's as hard as a diamond wrapped in a toffee penny. :)

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