La Mulana 1 & 2: Hidden Treasures Edition | Review | Switch - Japan-based Nintendo Podcasts, Videos & Reviews!


Thursday, July 2, 2020

La Mulana 1 & 2: Hidden Treasures Edition | Review | Switch

by Michael Brandse

A cerebral punch to the gut!
If you bought the physical game like I did (and not the digital one), you will actually get both games on one game card. Which is why for this review, I will be reviewing the two games as one.

A masterclass in level design
La Mulana is a Metroidvania. This may not sound like a big deal these days, however when the game came out this genre was quite barren. That doesn’t mean this game is just coasting on old glory; the game still has a rather unique approach to the genre. What is unique about this game is their approach to the game world. While La Mulana may be difficult when it comes to its gameplay, the area of the game where it really likes the hit the player hard are its puzzles. La Mulana is a game that is filled to the brim with cryptic hints, and puzzles that must be solved in order to advance. Puzzles that can be really hard, and may even span large portions of the game. A hint you may find early on, could very well only become relevant much later in the game.
Puzzles are also not simply “bring object A to place B” either and sometimes go really meta. It requires you to not only have a solid grasp of what the player character can do, but what the entire game can do. Yet, the game is not unfair. While there is certainly no hand holding and you will find yourself lost more than once, everything the player needs to do is properly communicated through the hints, no matter how cryptic they may be.
It’s therefore that the biggest strength of La Mulana, for both the original as well as the sequel, is easily it’s level design. It’s a work of art in a way, in just how much the developers thought out the entire game from the beginning until the end. Everything is connected, and due to this you cannot help but feel like a true adventurer when you finally solve this riddle that has eluded you for so long. 
As far as sprite-work goes, the game is excellent as well. While the first game shows some signs of aging, the second games has some really excellent sprite-work going on. The biggest strength here however is variety. There is so much variety in each and every environment that just finding your way into a new area will make you look forward to just how it’s designed. For me, the best moments for me was finding an entirely new area and starting to explore it. That’s not to say that the presentation is just presentation; even the visual design is important to its level design, so the player is always required to observe the environment in great detail. Something that may seem off may just be part of a puzzle you cannot solve yet. 
That is not to say the game is perfect. When it comes to game play, the game falters a bit. The problem is that the series wants to be like older harder games a bit too much. For the game play, they seem to have taken cues from games such as Ghost and Goblins, all the way up to the very rigid jumps. Therefore, while the game may be hard from a game play perspective as well, this is primarily because the game feels a stiff. You will often get hit by enemy fire or even jump right into the embrace of enemies just because you cannot steer your character in mid-air. La Mulana 2 does a lot to remedy this, but it’s still not the smoothest experience there is.
Music wise this game is a treat. If you have any love for old-school game music, this game will hit all the right notes. That goes for both the first and second game; both have a varied, but banging soundtrack. 


I can highly recommend this game to anyone who likes games like Zelda, but wants to have a bit more meat on their puzzles. Metroidvania fans may find their share of joy as well. While La Mulana 1 definitely shows its age and needs some time getting used to, La Mulana 2 is an excellent sequel and having both games on one game card is more than I could wish for. I for one am a big fan, and am glad that La Mulana 1 and 2 both found their way unto the Switch, so I can play them wherever I want.

Final Score: 9.0

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