We look at La-Mulana EX and find out that Indiana Jones had it easy all this time. Archeology meets platforming meets insanely hard puzzles.
La-Mulana EX is the Vita version of La-Mulana, which saw previous releases on the Wii and PC and was now brought to the Playstation platform with several enhancements. Some have very little to do with the core game, like a monster encyclopedia and improved foreign language support, but others tweak the game in subtle ways.
La Mulana prides itself on being a challenging exploration game… but ‘punishingly difficult’ is probably a better way to describe it. Therefore, the EX version has introduced the option to travel more easily around the game world without having to explore the entire map first. The original game could also put a curse on you that made the game harder permanently, and this curse can actually be undone in the EX version.
However, that doesn’t mean that this new version is suddenly a cakewalk. Channeling his inner Indiana Jones, your main character sets out with his whip on a search for gold, lost cities and other archeological riches. On his quest, professor Lemeza Kosugi has to traverse danger in the shape of spikes, enemies and deadly falls – as well as often frustrating puzzles.
Often compared to the MSX platformers of the 80s, La Mulana also bears some resemblance to the Rick Dangerous games from about 25 years ago – especially when it comes to the setting and its mix of platforming and puzzles. Still – there are major differences. Rick Dangerous had its fair share of frustrating deaths – situations where you “didn’t see it coming”. However… each death immediately gave you an idea of what you should have done instead.
La Mulana EX is different in that, too often, you have no clue as to what to do next. More often than not I found myself searching online for the solution to a problem, which even when reading it seemed to make little sense. I don’t mean that the complexity of the puzzle was beyond me either – I mean that slaying a monster in the far north of the game map shouldn’t randomly open a door in the east.
Because of persistent issues like that, I wasn’t able to enjoy La Mulana as much as I wanted to. I love the setting, the exploration and the basic platforming and puzzling, but the game throws moments of utter frustration at you too often for the experience to be the joyous one you hope for. Super Meat Boy is hard – very hard, but it always gives you that “come on, you can do it”-feeling. La Mulana, instead, says “no way you’ll pull this off!” That’s a shame, but if you’re willing to endure and don’t mind reaching for a walkthrough every now and then, then La Mulana EX is a fun and original approach to a classic genre with tons of challenge.