4cr Plays – La Mulana

by Antonio Garcia

With the release of the Wii U just around the corner, releases for Wii games have been few and far between. When we look at the release schedule for Wiiware for the last quarter, things do not look good. When Nicalis decided to cancel the release of Mulana on Wiiware in the US and Europe, I have to say I felt a bit sad. A great remake of a fun, old-school-hard 2D action game in the same style as our beloved Metroid and post-Symphony of the Night 2D Castlevania games would never be available outside of Japan. Then, Enjoy Up announced that they would be taking over as the publisher for the game! That announcement made me happy, but was the wait worth it?

Your adventure starts when Professor Lemeza (our fedora wearing and whip carrying hero) arrives at La-Mulana, an ancient place that holds the secrets to mankind’s history and that is filled with traps, animals, bugs, monsters, treasure, and huge bosses. Things start of once you meet the chief in the local village who gives you a piece of software you can install in your portable computer in order to receive his emails. Professor Lemeza has a very special computer and you can install a lot of software on it, as long as the total memory usage does not go over a set limit.The email reader is just the start of things, and you can buy new software or find it hidden in the temples you’ll explore throughout the game.

Before you dive into the temples and get the adventure going, you should watch this video so you know what you’re getting into:

Still with me? Great!

As the video has said, La-Mulana is a very hard game, and I liked it! The beginner’s guide video should be considered mandatory for all who dare enter the ruins. It offers a glimpse into what your future will hold, as long as you’re actually willing to die over, and over and over again until you find a way to avoid traps while solving puzzles.

The weights shown in the video above that are used on pedestals to unlock a chest, trigger a mechanism or to unlock another pedestal somewhere else in each temple are very important. At the start, a few weights might allow you to slowly advance in the game, but you will get to a point were making a trip inside of the ruins with anything less than 20-30 weights at a time is just wrong. The more weights you have, the more progress you can make in every single trip since there are spots where you could run into 4 rooms in a row that require that you activate 1-2 pedestals at a time.

The most important items you’ll need are the Portable Scanner, and the Yagoo Map and the Glyph Reader software. Why? The Portable Scanner allows you to read stone tablets which is the way to unlock the save/check points, the Yagoo Map software makes it possible to read the maps you’ll find for each area, allowing you to know where you need to go by analyzing where you’ve already been, and the Glyph Reader lets you read ancient writing which lets you find clues and instructions on how to solve the hundreds of puzzles you’ll find.

Your trusty whip will help you on your quest (you could use it all the way to the end if you desire a true challenge), but it would be wise to search the ruins for better weapons that can even the odds. Your first option will be a knife that has a very short range of attack, but that is more powerful than the whip and can be quickly used to deal two hits in the same time it takes for the whip to deal one hit. You can also obtain upgrades to your whip as well as an extra weapon or two, but once you find the Axe (which does take time), you won’t want to try any other weapons. You can also find sub-weapons that can make your life easier by allowing you to hit enemies from far away, or to set a trap for them that can end up eliminating them, and some of them are even required to advance in the game.

But in order to find all the treasure, weapons and sub-weapons in the game, you must constantly look for secrets that hide in the floors, walls and ceilings! By hitting them with your weapon, they start to rattle and crumble after every hit until they eventually reveal a mystery item or a new path. Most secrets lead to chests filled with coins which can help you buy everything you need to make it out alive.

Experience points in La Mulana are treated differently than in other games because you don’t actually gain levels or improve skills when you fill the experience bar, nor do you obtain experience from defeating general enemies. Experience points are an item drop from some defeated enemies, and won’t appear all the time. Whilte you don’t gain more HP or get stronger from experience points, you regain all your health when you fill the bar. In La-Mulana, you can only heal at the hot spring, or by filling out your experience bar, which makes experience drops priceless. You could even avoid experience points when you’re close to filling up the bar so that you can activate the HP refill when you really need it, which adds extra strategy to the game.

Despite this, you’re not really stuck with only 32 HP for the whole game. Some gamers may decide they want to finish the game with only the starting HP bar (crazy!), but the rest of us can increase that in 32 HP intervals by picking up Orbs that are scattered all over the ruins. You will find one within the first 30 minutes or so of your game, but subsequent orbs must be searched out in the other temples you will explore.

If you’re a great adventurer you can also gain the help of fairies! When you find the Queen of the Fairies, she will ask to be provided with an item before she can allow the fairies to go with you. The fairies can be called when you find a bright circle of light in some rooms in the temples, and they all are available for a limited time before they go away. These fairies do more than just heal the professor, each fairy has a special ability that can help you on your quest.

The music in the game is great and really complements the on screen action, setting the mood for hours and hours of exploring. You can buy the soundtrack here, and it is split into 3 discs. It is great that the music is excellent and that the game is fun, because you’re looking at 30-50 hours to see everything the game has to offer, as long as you’re not cheating and using a strategy guide to speed through the game. With a game as rewarding as La Mulana, it would be a shame to cheat, because solving the puzzles and avoiding the traps all by yourself is something you should all experience.

La-Mulana might be the last great Wiiware game released in the US and Europe as the Wii is about to enter its 7th year on the market, and closes in on 100 million consoles sold worldwide. It has been a long time since La-Mulana was first announced for Wiiware, and I’m glad that Nigoro and Enjoy Up teamed up to release the game outside of Japan as it would have been a shame for Wii owners to miss out on one of the best games on the system (retail or digital).

If you still have any questions, you should definitely read this . Most of you don’t even read instructions anymore, but in La-Mulana, this can have dire consequences!