Game Review #494: La Mulana 1 & 2 (Nintendo Switch)
  • John Bush

Game Review #494: La Mulana 1 & 2 (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B

Developer: Nigoro

Publisher: NIS America

Category: Action

Release Date: 3.27.2020

Price: $14.99 (La Mulana, Digital), $24.99 (La Mulana 2, Digital) $59.99 (physical)



Watch the Trailer


Buy La Mulana from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy La Mulana 2 from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy La Mulana 1 &2 Hidden Treasures Edition from Amazon here.


Years before Demon’s Souls kicked off the trend of super-difficult action RPGs, La Mulana embraced an unforgiving gameplay ethos in the Metroidvania genre. It was originally developed for Windows in Japan, in the style of games for the MSX, a Microsoft personal computer/gaming system that was extremely popular in Japan in the 80s (see? Microsoft consoles can succeed in Japan). A few years ago, Nigoro remade the game for modern consoles with a 16-bit style, and then they Kickstarted (Kickstartered?) a sequel. And now both games have been released on the Switch, and I’m going to review them for you today. That was a fun story. Now let’s get to La Mulana 1 & 2.



The Kosugi Family Business

La Mulana is the story of archaeologist Lemeza Kosugi exploring the ancient ruins of La Mulana after receiving a letter from his father. As players guide him through the ruins, Lemeza learns the secrets of La Mulana and a mysterious supernatural figure known as The Mother all the while searching for the ruins’ rumored treasure. La Mulana 2 follows the exploits of Lemeza’s daughter Lumisa some five years after the events of the first game. The ruins have been basically destroyed in Lemeza’s wake, but the villagers around it have begun setting the place up as a tourist attraction. After being invited to explore the ruins to find her father, Lumisa enters Eg-Lana, which the game describes as an upside-down La Mulana. The stories for both games are fairly rudimentary, but they kind of play out like an Indiana Jones movie and that makes them all right with me.



You’ve Got To Whip It, Whip It Good

La Mulana and La Mulana 2 are technically separate games, but if we’re being totally honest, they’re pretty much the same game with slightly different graphics and stories. The basic gameplay is classic old-school Metroidvania; players explore a 2D world map via platforming and puzzle-solving. Different items and abilities can be gathered that allow access to new areas or just make killing the game’s enemies a little bit easier. What sets the series apart from its genre-mates is that it is really, really super-hard. Like, it is very easily the hardest puzzle-platformer I have ever played.



The Doable Parts

I don’t mean the combat and jumping around and stuff, that’s all pretty standard. I mean, I didn’t like how when you drop off a ledge you could only fall straight down instead of being able to change direction in midair like most other platformers. It’s just something I’m so used to from other games and I could never train myself away from it in either La Mulana. And I didn’t like the long attack animation for the main characters, especially when using the basic whip that occasionally slowed the game down unnecessarily. I can’t tell you how many times I died because I hit the attack button but Lemeza or Lumisa had such a long windup that the enemy closed the distance before the attack could finish. Oh, there’s also an extremely long knockback whenever you get hit that gets annoying when it knocks you into a pit and into another room when you’re trying to get to another room or solve a puzzle that resets when you leave the room.



The Screw You Parts

But no, that’s not the super-hard part, because all of those problems can be overcome by using a little more caution and thinking about your actions before you take them. It’s these dang puzzles. I spent hours trying to figure out how to solve some of the puzzles in the game’s starting area; and that’s the easy part. Making things more difficult is the game’s lack of any sort of direction and any hints you do get are super-duper vague. Furthermore, the tablets that offer hints can only be read if you purchase an item at the beginning of the game… which the game doesn’t tell you about. And even then, some of the hints are written in an ancient script, which can only be read by purchasing a special plug-in item for that previous item. Which the game never mentions.


And you won’t only be missing the game’s mostly not-that-helpful hints, you’ll miss a good chunk of the world’s backstory which means you’ll miss out on a good chunk of important information about the game’s main story. I could handle the platforming action with grace and dignity, but these puzzles had me rage-quitting and angry-face memeing irl pretty much every time I loaded the game. I understand that there are a lot of players out there that enjoy being gluttons for punishment, but I am not necessarily in that group. I appreciate the skill that goes into crafting a game like this and I appreciate even more the skill that is needed to overcome this level of challenge, but I would just get too frustrated to stick with either game for very long. Forewarned is forearmed; don’t pick this game up unless you are ready for a very extreme challenge. Or have a video walkthrough queued up on YouTube.



Ruins Don’t Ruin the View

Now that we’re done with the unpleasant parts, let’s get back to what I liked. La Mulana 1 & 2 have a great 16-bit aesthetic that I totally love. I mean, I’m a nostalgic sucker for retro-pixel art, but I think even if you don’t have that attachment you’ll still think the game looks great. The graphical style is slightly different in each game; La Mulana 2 uses fewer outlines for its character sprites which makes the graphics feel a little softer. Still looks good though. The music is fine for the most part; it’s adventurous and bombastic, but when I got frustrated with the game I found myself getting annoyed by the music as well – but then again, when I got pissed at the game every little thing that happened in the game pissed me off so maybe I shouldn’t count that against the music.



La Mua-Ha-Ha-Ha

There’s a lot to like about La Mulana 1 & 2, and even the parts I got fed up with I still found a way to appreciate on a technical level – after the fact, at least. The graphics are a perfect blast from the past, and the platforming was consistent within itself even if it doesn’t necessarily stick with the same gameplay rules that other platformers follow. Certainly the gameplay has its annoying ticks, but nothing that can’t be overlooked. I just got tired of every puzzle being so obscure; I appreciate a challenge, but can I just get one easy win every once in a while for morale purposes? Still, despite my (many, frequent) frustrations, the level of care put into crafting La Mulana 1 & 2 is evident from the moment you first boot up one of the games, and it’s hard not to appreciate them for that fact alone.


Score: 7/10


Buy La Mulana from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy La Mulana 2 from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Buy La Mulana 1 &2 Hidden Treasures Edition from Amazon here.


Follow NIS America

Website / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube


Follow Nigoro

Website / Twitter


*A game code was provided for review purposes

©2018 by JP's Switchmania. Proudly created with Wix.com