Having heard so many good things about the freeware version of La-Mulana over the past few years, I went into the game expecting something that was simply decent. A light platformer with some reportedly (but not actually) difficult elements that I would figure out quickly and progress past without getting too mad — I expected an altogether forgettable experience.
Luckily, I was completely and utterly wrong.
Having only played six hours into the game, I cannot say this is a review. That just wouldn’t be right. Rather, I just want to express that in this time I have fallen in love with the game.
Despite barely progressing, dying multiple times, mulling over puzzles I can’t even begin to figure out the workings of yet, and getting lost; I have become completely entranced.
NeoGAF compares the game to Dark Souls, while other communities refer to La-Mulana as a Metroidvania. Neither one of these comparisons really comes close due to the complexity of the game’s exploration and puzzles, many of which requiring a pen and paper to really grasp.
Let me reiterate that:
You need a pen and paper to complete many of the puzzles.
This is something you don’t see much in gaming anymore, and is something I have always thoroughly enjoyed. Scribbling down what’s written on tablets, taking notes on rooms, and writing reminders to myself is something I realized I missed very much. Doing so in a game like Etrian Odyssey, which gives you the tools to do so in-game, feels less genuine because you aren’t forced to take the initiative to do it yourself and to do it properly.
The fact that you have to take the initiative and figure things out on your own harkens back to an older time of RPGs. La-Mulana is not what one would consider to be a roleplaying game, but the feeling I get while playing it reaches back to the part of my brain that experienced and enjoyed the old Wizardry titles and various dungeon crawlers.
Progressing through La-Mulana is an entirely uphill battle, but those small victories you achieve feel like the best thing in the world. I look at my time with the game, and remember this is why I love video games. The challenge, the experience of exploring into unknown territory, and the feeling of victory once something you’ve been trying to figure out for hours finally comes together are some of the most rewarding and memorable moments video games can gift their players.
The majority of my time with La-Mulana so far has been memorable. The majority of my time as I continue into the game will continue to be memorable, I am sure of that. The more I play, the more I want to uncover and explore. This is the best type of experience in gaming, and I’m not looking forward to uncovering everything La-Mulana has in store for me. I don’t want it to end.