How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. Like the first game, the emphasis on puzzles here is going to make it an entirely different animal than your standard Metroidvania fare – but fans will still enjoy its massive world.
Primary Challenge: Riddle-Solving Puzzles
Time to beat: ~35 hours
Review Info: This game was played on Steam
Buy La-Mulana 2 if you like…
- The First La-Mulana - Because this is more of the same
- Writing down clues or using a guide
- Quirky Japanese Humor
- A variety of visual locations, bosses, and events
- Challenging combat and tricky platforming
▼ Review continues below ▼
La-Mulana 2 is amazing, and that’s because it’s very similar to the first game in terms of scope and challenges. Like the first one though, you really have to fit into the niche of gamers that it was made for in order to really appreciate it. I’d wager that most random people who’d pick this game up are going to be very frustrated by its obtuse puzzles and ping-pong traveling to areas as old and new places become relevant. Like the first, it would be an achievement to finish this game in under 40 hours without using a guide. However, and I’ll admit this is something that will definitely vary from person to person, but there are few things more satisfying than conquering a challenge like what these La-Mulana games can provide. When I beat La-Mulana 1 a year ago, that stupid credits screen brought a tear to my eye as I was flushed by the realization that I had finally done it. La-Mulana 2 attempts to create a repeat of that feeling, and in many ways it succeeds, but the second time around proves to be a little less of a watershed moment simply because it’s no longer unique.
There are a lot of points I could make about La-Mulana 2 that would simply be a repeat of my review of the first game. So instead of talking about all of the positives that make up the score for La-Mulana 2, I’ll point you in the direction of that review and focus instead on the differences between the two games. I want to emphasize that anything positive in La-Mulana 1 is absolutely true for La-Mulana 2, and if you enjoyed the first game – then you’ve probably already bought this sequel.
If you haven’t played the first game though, I definitely think you should start there. La-Mulana 2 is going to spoil a lot of things and I really recommend not doing that – and I’m not just talking about the plot. Both La-Mulana games are about mystery, discovery, and all around creating that feeling of being an Indiana Jones style adventurer. La-Mulana 2 does a great recap of the first game, but even from the first scene it’s rife with inside jokes and call-backs to characters and events that you simply will not understand or appreciate otherwise. If you think La-Mulana 1 is too hard, well sorry, La-Mulana 2 isn’t any easier. Odds are if you didn’t like the first you won’t change your mind here.
La-Mulana 2 does have a friendlier start than the first game (which sort of slaps you on the butt and says “go at it.”) This time you get a little trip down memory lane in the ruins of La-Mulana along with some helpful tutorial tips before spitting you out in the true first area of Eg-Lana where the going is much tougher than the Gate of Guidance was.
I think the first thing I noticed was different in La-Mulana 2 was that your jumps can be controlled mid-air even when you jump left or right, and you can grab ladders halfway up instead of only being able to mount them from the ground. With that said, there’s still a lot of awkwardness involved with movement – when you walk off cliffs you still go into a freefall where you can’t control your direction – and this is true if you let go of a ladder or get damaged as well. Therefore I can’t really say that this will appeal more to players coming from other games since there are things you still have to get used to. But because of these new jumping mechanics, there are fewer puzzles about getting your character into the right position to access areas, but it’s balanced by more puzzles that require you to solve word riddles.
The center of these word riddles is the Djed Pillar and the Mantra mechanic. Throughout the ruins you learn Mantras that have specific meanings, and replay these mantras using an item. There are many rooms you have to incant the correct combination of mantras to unlock a door or make a puzzle mechanism appear. It’s used so often that assuming you have to deduce the correct password likely should be your first approach to a puzzle where you’re stuck. It’s more streamlined than more varied (random) solutions like simply standing still in front of a pedestal until the event is triggered – but there’s a little bit of that anyway. Expanding the Mantra system is probably the most used “new” mechanic from the first game, but you also have a couple of new movement upgrades to use as well. Overall though, you’re still going to be looking for keys, sigils, and especially clues, just like before.
The ruins themselves, while still great and filled with varied locales, feel just a little less cohesive than the first game. There’s still a “backside” mechanic like the first game, but it’s missing the duality that inspired that mechanic in the first place. While it was weird and maybe jarring to move from Aztec ruins to Egyptian ruins in La-Mulana 1, there was still this sense that the rooms were connected at least by there being an opposite to each area. In La-Mulana 2 areas feel more disconnected from each other, which makes the whole feel less special even if the individual parts are still fantastic.
There’s also less tension building in La-Mulana 2, which I can’t talk too much without spoiling things. In the first game the primary riddle was centered on a looming threat, and as you discover more and change more areas that threat seems greater and greater. You already know what the threat is in La-Mulana 2 which makes the final battle have less power as a climax. It’s clear that the events in this game were planned since the first (watch the final fight in the original game again), but it doesn’t stop the game from feeling like excuses were made to keep the story going.
They also decided to include a lot more instant death traps in La-Mulana 2. Many are telegraphed, but you’re going to get caught by them. In my opinion, the La-Mulana games are only unfair when it’s meaningful, but the “meaning” behind these kinds of traps is making you laugh at the absurdity. You can argue that they add little, and I can totally see someone throwing their hands up and cursing La-Mulana 2 for being “Kaizo Mulana”. However, you can still teleport quickly to areas, and no area is so big that it takes more than two minutes to cross it – death’s impact is small unless you’ve simply avoided saving for a while. Even the bosses let you start right outside the Ankh when you die. For all of its dangers, La-Mulana 2 is still very fair to the player – even including some new “cheat” options to help players beat hard bosses more easily.
I consider some of these “cheats” to be improvements, but ultimately I feel like La-Mulana 2 is just slightly weaker than its predecessor. But, its predecessor was an incredible game – it’s very difficult to top something like that. One of the biggest problems with La-Mulana 1 though is it was so unique that it was impossible to suggest anything quite like it to people asking for recommendations. With La-Mulana 2, NIGORO has delivered more of the same, and that’s exactly what their fans wanted.
Very similar to the first game, though there are a few ''Cheats'' this time to help less skilled players
The platforming mechanics are more ''Traditional'' this time around, but still maintain some clunkiness
So many places to explore, but not quite as cohesive as the first game in terms of connectivity
Nearly every single screen has some mystery to be solved
Expands on the lore established in the first game creating a very compelling mythos
A graphical upgrade including a wider screen, detailed character portraits when talking, and larger sprites
Not QUITE as catchy as the first game in my humble opinion, but still great and a similar style
Hard Mode plus a metric crap-ton of secrets to find - including costumes to wear for subsequent playthroughs
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