Oh look, a PSVita exclusive remake of a PC game that has actually been localised, are you shocked? I know I certainly was when digging into some research into this game, upon discovering that it was a metroidvania style game (my favourite genre), I was intrigued to get started, so off I adventured to La Mulana.
As mentioned above, La Mulana EX is the PlayStation Vita version of a cult classic PC game released in 2005, inspired by MSX games of the past, La Mulana EX aims to give players a nostalgic throwback, and from early impressions, the game certainly achieves this.
Players take the role of Lameza Kosugi, an Indiana Jones style explorer who follows the trial of La Mulana, a lost ancient city said to be home to a curse, the city is guarded by terrible, ginormous creatures known simply as guardians, your task is to defeat these guardians, free the city of the curse and find your father, who went missing on a journey to La Mulana years ago.
Initially you are equipped with just a whip which takes very little damage off enemies, but as you explore the caves and tunnels that make up La Mulana you’ll find stronger and more powerful weapons and even projectiles to help you conquer stronger foes.
You’re also equipped with a laptop which you can find and purchase applications for to help you throughout your journey, for example, there is an application that can read stone tablets which offer vital hints to your progression throughout the game, in fact I’d recommend not leaving the starting village without this upgrade.
Now I’m not going to beat about the bush here, La Mulana EX is hard as balls, it is a game that was designed with difficulty in mind and certainly achieves it’s target, however, it can often be too hard. There was many times where I’d spent a while exploring through the caves and discovered plenty of new things only to find myself dying and losing all the stuff I had found as you can only restart from your last save point upon death, even with all this said however, the difficulty is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my problems with this game.
Completing the game unlocks a harder difficulty, which will annoy most players after having completed what is already an incredibly tough game. There is also a time attack mode which tasks you with defeating a series of bosses in an attempt to set a record, you’re given all of the equipment available in game to try and defeat them which is a nice touch.
The biggest problem I had with this game lies within it’s presentation, I can’t think of many, if any, PlayStation Vita games that can only be played in a 4:3 aspect ratio, but unfortunately La Mulana EX is locked to this ratio, however the side columns can be changed with up to 12 different skins, but that isn’t enough, and it makes everything on the screen seem small, which didn’t really help me with progress in the game. I’d like to think that a patch will be added to the game in the future to add a 16:9 ratio, but I’m not sure it will be possible.
The soundtrack is one of the things I enjoyed most about this game, it definitely felt like it was a game with older generations in mind and the soundtrack was giving me SNES vibes, there was also some eerie tunes to be found when venturing into deeper, more dangerous parts of La Mulana which really did set the tone well, and boss fights are accompanied with blood-pumping, heart-pounding melodies that really give you a sense of urgency and difficulty.
The final point I want to talk about is the how this game offers absolutely no clear sense of direction of where you need to go, I spent several hours wandering aimlessly trying to find new things in La Mulana but constantly dying and making absolutely zero progress before figuring out what to do, and at one point whilst investigating I accidentally activated hard mode, just by talking to a statue!
La Mulana EX really is a game that is not for the faint of heart, it’s takes patience and sometimes bravery to explore beyond areas in which you previously died, but it’s also a game that is let down by poor presentation and by sometimes just being way too difficult. I feel that if the game had been just a little bit easier and offered a sense of direction and a little bit of guidance beyond the games digital instruction manual, then I would have enjoyed its 15+ hour campaign a lot more.
If you’re a fan of difficult games then La Mulana EX is definitely worth a look, but if, like me, you find difficulty can be off-putting then it might be best to avoid this one.