[Review] LA-MULANA 2 – Nintendo Switch

Written by Brett Hill
  • Developer: Nigoro, Playism
  • Publisher: NIS America
  • Price: $24.99 / £22.49
  • Release Date: 20/03/2020
  • Review code provided by NIS America

Introducing: LA-MULANA 2 Switch Review

Over at Nintendad Manor we had the opportunity to review LA-MULANA 1 & 2 for the Nintendo Switch thanks to the awesome guys over at NIS America. LA-MULANA 2 is a Metroidvania-style exploration game originally released in 2018, 13 long years after the original dungeon crawler which followed a successful kickstarter campaign. The series is critically acclaimed amongst fans of the genre due to its insane difficulty, beautifully crafted 16-bit visuals and gripping narrative.

Return to LA-MULANA

LA-MULANA 2 is set five years after the events of the first game where a money-hungry entrepreneur by the name of Xelpud turns the ruins of LA-MULANA into a tourist attraction. One morning, business is far from usual when monsters start to emerge from the dilapidated shrines. Xelpud starts to get concerned and calls for help expecting the protagonist from the first game, Lemeza Kozugi to arrive, but was confused when his daughter, Lumisa equipped with a whip and a tablet (how very modern) rocks up to solve the mysteries of the ruins.

What has caused the monsters to return? What has happened to Lemeza? Will you have enough space on your tablet to install all those helpful apps? It’s time for Lumisa to take on the guardians and unlock the secrets.

Watch Out Lara

Did Kevin mention that LA-MULANA was difficult in his review of the original? Well, the sequel is no different. The game starts off with a prologue to get you back into the groove, but not having the opportunity to play the original myself, it made no difference. If I was to give one piece of advice for any budding tomb raiders then it is to interact with absolutely everything and buy the hand scanner from the shop in the village. It is essential to make any progress. Another point that Kevin made was you will die a lot, not from enemies as much, but from the environment around you. For instance; as you mind your own business taking in the scenery, the ceiling would drop crushing you to death. At first it seemed brutal and unforgiving but as you progress you start to learn different routes and start to move and think how the developer would.

In each of the ruins there are two main objectives, find the Ankh Jewel then use it to open the gateway and destroy the guardian. But, there is so much more to discover as you aimlessly trawl what seems to be endless corridors and floors. Another tip is to find the map for each ruin quickly as possible, it will make navigating easier. Each level has a holy grail tablet letting you save your progress, another nifty purpose for the tablet is that you can warp yourself to different areas. This comes in handy when you are running low on health. You can quickly travel back to the village of departure and rejuvenate by jumping into the hot springs then stock up on weights and Shuriken.

Beautifully Crafted

Each chapter has been meticulously created using the popular 16-bit graphics and colour palette. The audio is crisp with the music having that distinct adventure soundtrack resembling Crystal Maze. The controls are mostly solid with the only issue I had was not being able to jump at an angle, which caused some unfortunate falls where I landed on spikes. There is a comprehensive inventory which can be accessed by pressing the “+” button. Within the inventory you can equip your weapons and look at items you have collected, as well as organise and load apps on your tablet that can aid you. There is also an ever-growing glossary giving you information on enemies and monsters.

I am going to make a confession now, after a few hours of traipsing around room after room and not making what felt like no progression I turned to a walkthrough. This actually made the experience more enjoyable, being able to follow the story unfold on the page and see it happen onscreen was a unique experience and took me back to when I was a kid.

Ghouls and Squirrels

Each ruin is filled with enemies to destroy from basic foes which require a couple of hits to kill to mini-bosses and full blown guardians. The whip is an effective weapon on the basic enemies but if you want a good chance against the mini-bosses I would recommend buying as many Shuriken as you can afford and get hurling them before the giant squirrel takes you down. The ruins are full of puzzles to solve with the most common being pedestals requiring you to place a weight on it to open a door or move a platform, so my last recommendation is to carry a ton of weights with you as you might get caught empty-handed, unable to proceed.

Conclusion

LA-MULANA 2 is a great follow up to the original, Metroidvania-style dungeon crawler. It is also just as unforgiving and brutally difficult as the first, but on the other hand the game is rewarding and offers many hours of fun and challenging puzzles to complete. The art style is beautiful and reminiscent of the 16-bit era with an unforgettable soundtrack. After caving and looking at a walkthrough online, I accidentally stumbled on a way to enjoy a game that I forgot could be possible, scrolling through the pages and taking in the environment LA-MULANA 2 had to offer was an experience I will remember for a while. Maybe an official hardcover guide could be in the cards?

Pros

  • Beautifully designed levels
  • Great soundtrack
  • Challenging puzzles
  • Comprehensive inventory

Cons

  • Jump mechanic could be improved
  • Very difficult which could put players off
  • Without a walkthrough it can seem impossible

Verdict
LA-MULANA 2 is an unforgiving Metroidvania-style game that will make you pull your hair out and want to rage quit but it can be a rewarding experience if you stick it out. The 16-bit art style is the icing on the cake.
4/5

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