La-Mulana 2 Review: Digging Up Buried Platforming Treasure
The gaming community owes a huge debt to Kickstarter, with lovers of niche games in old school graphical styles getting their fill of new content thanks to the crowd funding revolution.
La-Mulana 2 is one of the latest classic gaming entries to arrive thanks to a successful crowd funding campaign, offering up that classic Metroidvania nostalgia in a unique setting.
You've got to already be fully in love with the style to get the most out of this platforming sequel, but for those still engaged in that torrid love affair with the Castlevania entries from decades past, La-Mulana 2 is about as good as it gets.
Old School, New Setting
This time around you get to play an intrepid archaeologist with a whip who just happens to also be a master ninja and monster fighter. Girl's gotta have a wide skill set to survive these days, ya know?
With a little luck she might even make it through a few screens before dying horribly, but don't count on it, as the difficultly level here is wonderfully diabolic. Make no mistake about it, La-Mulana 2 is as old school as it gets, complete with wonky jumping controls and difficult combat.
The game is entirely keyboard-driven on the PC version, but clearly setup to mimic the SNES controls of using the L and R buttons to navigate through menus with four main buttons for using items and jumping. Anyone who has used an emulator with a keyboard extensively will probably have an edge here on getting used to the controls.
It's not just the keyboard / controller layout that works hard to evoke the feel of the '80s and early '90s either, as there's a clear 8 bit presentation on the visual side, but with frequent nods to later game eras sprinkled in. You'll notice sounds and visual effects that will bring to mind Symphony Of The Night, for instance.
Getting Addicted To Pain
One of La-Mulana 2's greatest strengths is that game is mostly non-linear after the starter dungeon. Just go wherever you want and figure out what puzzles you can. If you get stumped, go somewhere else until you can come back and try again.
While puzzling out those solutions to various death traps you will quickly come to the realization that this game is devastatingly hard, and on purpose. If you threw your controller over Battletoads or similar games back in the day, you may just want to check out the Let's Plays for the nostalgia.
Instant death traps are frequent and save spots are found only sparsely across the ruins, so trial and error plays a big role, but eventually a player will develop a sixth sense to know which buttons not to press and which floor tiles to avoid.
The puzzles here are all generally possible to figure out if you pay attention to the surroundings and take the time to master the controls.
Over time, you may find yourself getting addicted to the thrill of completing a puzzle or beating a giant monster boss and wanting to see if you can make it just a little bit further into the ruins.
Much like how many players gave up after that first demon boss in Dark Souls and decided the franchise wasn't worth the time, if you stick with it you find there's plenty of rewarding gameplay as you progress.
Ludicrously, there's actually a La-Mulana 2 hard mode available if you ignore three separate sets of warnings not to turn it on. I don't even want to contemplate what that experience must be like, since I'd prefer not to smash my keyboard into a million bits, but for the true masochists out there, the option is at least available.
The Bottom Line
Growing up on the NES and then cutting my teeth on the likes of Symphony Of The Night, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the platformer style, especially with the more offbeat or distinctive games like Demon's Crest.
La-Mulana 2 definitely falls into that category, and despite the simplicity, the game actually has an interesting story revolving around eight races of beings that have inhabited the earth over time, with humans only being the latest.
Metroidvana fans will love the wide range of zones featuring different art styles and strategies, from icy pillars you have to move across quickly before sliding off to rapidly ascending platforms and some crazy jumping puzzles.
For an indie offering that tries to ignore any gameplay innovations past 1994, La-Mulana 2 is an incredibly good time if you don't mind an exceptionally high difficulty level.