Review – La-Mulana 2
Developed by Nigoro and GR3 Project comes La-Mulana 2, sequel to the cult hit La-Mulana. Originally released in April 2013, La-Mulana gained a small, but passionate following.
Inspired by retro games, La-Mulana 2 is a 2-D roguelite platformer. While combat is present, it’s far slower than one might expect from a game of this genre. Despite its Castlevania-esque appearance, La-Mulana 2 is more about exploring and solving puzzles than it is about combat.
In La-Mulana 2 you play as Lumisa Kosugi, an Indiana Jones-like archaeologist and explorer who arrives at the titular tourist trap of La-Mulana. The temple ruins that brought you to this village are currently undergoing intensive restoration but Lumisa won’t be turned away, knowing that there are creatures and secrets within.
Lumisa can’t be stopped, but I almost was. La-Mulana 2 does not hold your hand at any point, not even during the tutorial stage. In most games, early areas will teach players everything they need to get started from controls to menus, allowing players to get a sense of what they can expect, understanding that the game will evolve as it progress. In La-Mulana 2 players are only informed of the menus and the various tools available to them, with little no objective guidance. From there Lumisa runs off into the temple with a better understanding of what to do than I did. I’m happy to play games that let me experiment and teach myself how to play, but in this case, I spent far too long wandering around before ever getting to the real game.
The ruins of La-Mulana are filled with stone tablets to scan that provide vague hints and lore. Sometimes the text you receive is simply background information, sometimes you get pieces of a puzzle to uncover the next area, all of the time, it’s confusing. I spent hours traversing the tutorial area going back and forth between various dead ends, unlocking shortcuts back to those same dead ends. I wrote down what lore I collected and theorized a bunch of possible puzzle solutions, only to have all of them fail. After two hours of wandering around, I finally figured it out with no help from the game. Feeling accomplished, I walked through the newly opened door only to see the opening credits begin to roll. I tried so hard to accomplish so little.
The new doorway took me into the hidden ruins of Eg-Lana, a temple labyrinth that lies below La-Mulana filled with monsters, hazards, and secret passages. It’s in Eg-Lana and it’s branching regions that Lu-Mulana 2‘s action takes place as Lumisa descends further and further into the unknown. Unfortunately, I made a dire mistake early on. As I repeatedly scanned everything I could for clues, I managed to accidentally activate La-Mulana 2‘s hard mode. Thanks for my aimless wandering and through scanning, there were nearly three times the monsters wandering around Eg-Lana. Worse, the bosses hit harder than I ever would have expected.
Personally, I love games that focus more on telling stories through exploration and discovery. I grew up playing video games and almost everything I’ve played has some form of combat system. I was excited to learn that La-Mulana 2 had combat but was far more focused on the exploration. Eg-Lana is filled with obstacles and monsters to defend yourself, but they aren’t intended to be all that strong. Of course, I broke that when I foolishly activated hard mode. What followed was a brutal repertoire of brutal deaths and failures to a boss I couldn’t have been less prepared for. Lumisa’s stiff movement controls and slow attacks make it difficult to respond effectively.
La-Mulana 2 makes some significant improvements on the original. For starters, there’s just more content for the price you pay. The original La-Mulana was animated in a 4:3 aspect ratio, but has been updated to 16:9 for the sequel, making it far more comfortable to play on modern monitors without betraying the original concept.
The soundtrack could use some work, though. When first entering Eg-Lana, the background music track was great, but an hour and a half later, I was still listening to the same exact song. The music changes for each new region, as well as boss fights, and the pseudo-MIDI tracks are a perfect fit for La-Mulana 2, but with the length of each new region, some more variety would have gone a very long way.
For an indie title like this, $24.99 is a little steep. But if retro games, pixel sprites, roguelights, or dungeon diving is your thing, La-Mulana 2 is not to be missed.
La-Mulana 2 perfectly captures the 8-bit animation style of arcade games.
The overall experience is great, but stiff controls and sluggish combat make boss fights near unbearable.
The soundtrack is strong, but lacking in quantity.
Fun Factor: 8.0
There’s plenty to do in La-Mulana 2 and if you enjoy roguelites, this the perfect fit.
Final Verdict: 8.0
La-Mulana 2 is available now on PC.
A copy of La-Mulana 2 was provided by the publisher.