[Review] LA-MULANA – Nintendo Switch

Written by Kevin Orme
  • Publisher: NIS America
  • Developer: Nigoro, Playism
  • Price: $14.99 / £13.49
  • Release Date: 20/03/2020
  • Review code provided by NIS America

Welcome to the Ruins: LA-MULANA Review

I walked into this game with a few expectations

  1. This game was hard.
  2. This game was good.
  3. This game was loved by those who played it.

I left this game with a few new understandings.

  1. This game is EXTREMELY hard
  2. This game IS good if you like insane challenging levels
  3. If you say that you’re good at the Dark Souls series, I’m not impressed. But if you say you’re good at LA-MULANA, you are, and will always be, better than I could ever dream of being.

So come with me as we go into the mystical ruins with me as we begin to discover LA-MULANA as the series makes its way to the Switch.

Let’s Go on an Adventure!

LA-MULANA is the story of an adventurer who goes to explore some ruins! You follow basic Metroidvania style gameplay and seek to defeat all eight bosses of the ruins you are exploring to seek the riches that they contain. Sounds like a pretty fun time, right? A good hearty jaunt during a relaxing weekend?

BOY DO I HAVE SOME BAD NEWS FOR YOU!

The Temple of Doom

In my entire playthrough of LA-MULANA I have logged in roughly 15 hours. I have died somewhere in the neighborhood of 215 times. This game is HARD, but not in the way that you normally expect it to be. In most hard-for-the-sake-of-hard games you have moments that seem unfair: an enemy that you can’t expect unless you’ve been killed by it or a trap that you couldn’t have possibly seen coming. We’ve all had these moments in some sort of game that we’ve played. It’s like that kid who makes up the rules AS you play the game. Nobody likes that. LA-MULANA is different than this in a few key ways.

LA-MULANA gets a lot of its difficulty by not telling you a DANG THING about how it works. I started the game expecting standard Metroidvania mechanics: Explore, find a thing, beat up a boss, rinse, repeat. About 10 minutes (and five deaths) in, I had finally discovered the actual ruins that I was supposed to discover. Once inside, I saw that there were a number of stone tablets that I could interact with. I found the button that was supposed to let me read it only to find that I didn’t have the ability to decipher it. I had to buy that particular item at the town I started in. So, after figuring out how to get that, I went back into the ruins and realized that I couldn’t figure out how to get nearly anything. If you remember, I have been hitting my head against this game for about 15 hours. This game is a lot of things, but you should go into it knowing that CRYPTIC is most of what it is.

WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS??

I love a good Metroidvania. I like hard games that reward good skill. LA-MULANA will put your skills to the test in every imaginable way. Let’s look at what I mean here:

  1. Puzzles are super crazy and often have you setting up solutions HOURS before you actually interact with them.
  2. Every clue that you get is impressively challenging to first understand and then execute. Especially in a game that hits often and hits hard.
  3. There aren’t health drops. There is one place to heal. Enemies drop collectibles that can EVENTUALLY heal you, but it’ll take a long time to fill that meter up.
  4. In this game, there are TONS of breakable walls that you need to attack to destroy and get weapons or items you need to progress to the end of the game. There are also, in these same rooms, watchful eyes that will shock you to death if you hit a wall that is NOT breakable. You will die. A lot.
  5. Expert speedrunners estimate that this will take you anywhere from forty to sixty hours.

Every time you think that you have a handle on what this game can throw your way, it will hit you hard with another challenge. It’s a beast at the best of times and a near-unconquerable nightmare at its worst. This game will put you through your paces and then stretch you to limits you didn’t know you could reach.

Mechanisms of the Ruins

This game controls well. I was actually really pleased with the lack of fall damage. I mean, when the game is actively trying to murder me everywhere I go, I’m glad to know that gravity isn’t one of those enemies trying to do it too. The floatiness of the character makes you really have to plan on how you maneuver in the ruins. It’s hard (if you haven’t gathered that already), but it’s not because of anything on the control end of things.

As much as this game kicked my teeth in, I will say something important: This game sounds great. In the menu, you can choose between the remastered soundtrack and a chiptune one. There is no wrong answer in which is better because it’s just a great assortment of fabulous music. I don’t think there’s a bad track in here. Seriously folks. You’re going to have a good time.

But At What Cost?

This game is hard, that much is clear. I will say this though: It’s a great game. I just happen to be TERRIBLE at it. If you have patience and are looking for a tough game that will take you a pretty long time to beat, this is the game for you. Especially where there’s a long-awaited sequel coming out on the same day! Do I regret my play time with this nightmare hell-scape? No. It taught me that I have limits and that I have a lot to grow when it comes to playing difficult games. Will I ever beat this game? You can’t see it, but I’m laughing until there are legitimate tears in my eyes. No. I’m not going to beat this. I have no desire to have my spirit broken like this game will do to me. Many of you are more brave souls than I am. Take this and show me how well you can beat it. I’m gonna go back to doing something a little more my speed… like a puzzle game that’s NOT trying to kill me.

Pros

  • Incredible quality and value for your buck!
  • A sense of accomplishment unlike any other one you’ll ever feel
  • Amazing soundtrack
  • Perfect for challenge-seeking die-hards

Cons

  • The single hardest game I have ever played
  • Like… SO HARD
  • MERCY this game is hard
  • Default volume is CRAZY loud
  • WHY IS THIS GAME SO HARD?

Verdict
LA-MULANA is RIDICULOUSLY hard and will challenge you to the max if you’re down for it. It plays well and looks great. Be warned. If I haven’t stressed it enough, you will die thousands of times.
3/5

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