It Belongs On A PC: La Mulana Remake

By Adam Smith on July 16th, 2012 at 9:00 am.

La Mulana is many things: a homage to the MSX system, the Indiana Jones Metroidvania game I always wanted, fiendishly difficult, beautifully designed. Now that the enhanced Wiiware version finally has its PC release, available at Playism for $14.99, I’ve settled on a new description that should excite most of the people who have somehow failed to be excited already. La Mulana is Dark Souls as a retro platform game, requiring thought and care, and punishing the over-confident. Trailer below.

And here’s a disco-dancing celebration of the game’s return to PC.

I also noticed that Playism, a digital download service operated by the localisers of the game which launched along with La Mulana’s remake, hs Yume Nikki, the dream exploring oddity, available for free. Definitely worth taking a look at if you’ve never tried it before.

Spelunky and La Mulana are the best archaeology games ever.

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50 Comments »

  1. Torn says:

    Anyone have experience with Playism? I’ve never heard of it.

    Hmm… wish this was on Steam, or Desura which I’ve had to buy into for the various Indie bundles.

    • Dominic White says:

      They’ve already applied via Steam and got one of their flat rejection mails. They’re trying again, but if it fails once more, they’re trying Greenlight next month.

      Playism is the localization company. They’ve been translating western indie games into Japanese for some time. La-Mulana is the first of several translations done the other way round. Their store is simple, no-frills and DRM-free. Imagine GOG, but all indie.

      • Torn says:

        I wonder if they can use the new Steam ‘Greenlight’ stuff and we can all get behind it? I love platformers, and loved spelunky. I’m sure it’d attract enough noise.

        http://steamcommunity.com/greenlight/

        I tried to find an email address for Nigoro but no luck. I’m wary of emailing Playism as they stand to lose out if Steam also picks the game up.

        • Dominic White says:

          … So, did you read my words at all? Also, Playism are the translation group – they’re trying to get their games on as many stores as possible, including Steam.

          • Torn says:

            Edit: missed the bit about greenlight (d’oh).

            I was wondering (probably unfoundedly) that if Playism is the only route to market they’ll take a larger cut of each sale compared to also paying Steam. Of course La Mulana being on Steam might mean a lot more sales so /shrug

          • Nevard says:

            “They’ve already applied via Steam and got one of their flat rejection mails. They’re trying again, but if it fails once more, they’re trying Greenlight next month.”
            Yes, clearly you read his words.

      • Memphis-Ahn says:

        But GOG has frills! That’s why I like GOG. Soundtracks, wallpapers, avatars, pdfs of the manuals or artbooks, etc.

        • yutt says:

          I’m a fan of GOG too, but Steam is increasingly getting these extras, especially for indie games. I have a ton of games on Steam with soundtracks and manual PDFs. I can’t think of any with bonus wallpapers, but that is a simple addition for the publishers, not a limitation of Steam.

          Would be great if Steam implemented a DRM-free option for games. Similar to what Amazon allows for ebooks.

          • Acorino says:

            Steam has a DRM-free option, you just can’t know in advance which games uses it.
            Psychonauts and Botanicula, for example, have no DRM on Steam.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      I rather like the changes they made in the remake. Less grind and less trial-and-error. While I miss the MSX throwback vibe, the new graphics are super fancy.

      I initially thought the game was a bit too easy now, but turns out that’s because it’s my third time through those early areas now, haha. Wandering into new areas… that’s not quite the case. Go into a suspicious room, of course there’s a miniboss. Not looking that tough, but then suddenly I have to go “what the fuck ZA WARUDO?!?”.

      (was not supposed to be a reply, whoops)

      • Torn says:

        Is it procedural like Spelunky or just a huge game with Metroid-style unlocks (i.e. you need the right ability to get into specific areas)?

        • Dominic White says:

          Metroidvania style. And it’s one of the biggest in the genre.

    • Xerophyte says:

      The site launched Friday along with the La-Mulana remake so that’s not very surprising. Apparently the intention is to focus on Japanese ports but as of right now it’s just assorted indies. It’s pretty straight-forward and bare-bones, no client, can use Google or Facebook logins if you like, pay with Paypal and get a (DRM-free) installer to download. The game is pretty fantastic so if you like exploration platformers and have ~12.24€ and several hours to spare then go for it.

      No Steam (or other distribution service) yet, apparently Nigoro got rejected first time they tried. I imagine it’ll appear sooner or later.

  2. Dominic White says:

    Oh, much better than the trailer above, here’s the official beginners guide video. It’s helpful, explains the nature of the game, and is incredibly sassy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtAFGes3Xdo

    Don’t judge the quality of the english in-game by the announcement video above. That was translated by the developers themselves, and English is very much a second language. They just try to communicate with their fans as best they can – you can bet that it’s more than most of you would if you got an e-mail in Japanese!

    The game itself is translated by Playism, and they’re a professional localization crew.

  3. Sheng-ji says:

    I had an MSX, it was my second computer and I still have very fond, probably very rose tinted memories! (First was a Dragon 32!!!) Be really interesting to see how this relates to my memories anyway

    • Dominic White says:

      The remake kinda upgrades it from a long-lost MSX game to a long-lost PSX game. Interestingly, they really have streamlined it without dumbing anything down. The puzzles make more sense, the game flows better, and the combat – which got trivially easy after a while – is significantly harder than it used to be, especially the bosses.

      • Zeewolf says:

        Oh no, harder bosses? I can’t stand bosses in general, and they were the worst part of Cavs Story+ for me.

        • pkt-zer0 says:

          Well, harder bosses in the sense that “stand in its face and stab it as fast as you can, hoping it runs out of life before you do” is no longer a valid strategy.
          Also, only after struggling through a couple bosses did I realize that defeating them didn’t open up much new at all. I’m fairly sure you can put off the first three bosses until after you’ve acquired the double jump and a whip upgrade.

          • mispelledyouth says:

            Double jump?

            Sold!

          • Dominic White says:

            Double-jumping and wall-climbing. Both are hugely important. The jumping physics in this are a bit like the original Castlevania. You’ve not got much air control, so you really have to commit to each move. The Dark Souls comparisons are quite justified – every act has to be thought out and planned. You can’t just bash your way blindly through this.

  4. iainl says:

    So far all that description, and indeed the screenshot, is sounding so much like Spelunky I’m not sure why I should spend actual cash money on it. What did I miss?

    • Dominic White says:

      Spelunky is a hyper-twitchy arcade roguelike platformer that can be beaten in 8 minutes.

      La-Mulana is an enormous Metroidvania style game with some genuinely complex puzzles that most agree will take you ~20 hours to beat your first time through. A speed-run, knowing the solution to every puzzle and the optimal route is still going to be above 5 hours.

    • Xerophyte says:

      Spelunky steals a lot from roguelikes. Each game is different, the content is random and the game can be completed in 20-30 minutes. There’s no real plot, no (well, very few) handcrafted environments and it’s meant to be a pick-up-and-play action game.

      La-Mulana doesn’t have any random component but it’s huge — it takes maybe 5 hours to get through if you know exactly where everything is and at least 10-15 hours the first time through. The focus of the game is on exploring the massive ruins, uncovering their secrets, solving puzzles of various levels of obtuseness and dying horribly. There’s something like 50ish different items to collect, 20ish major areas, 10 major bosses and maybe twice as many minibosses and so on. It steals from Metroid rather than Nethack.

      Where the games are similar is in playing as a platforming archeologist. Yu himself described the inspiration for Spelunky as “La-Mulana meets Nethack” and there are certainly similar elements but they are very different games.

      • Skabooga says:

        15-20 hours if you’re a savant at solving obtuse puzzles. My first playthrough was significantly longer. And it only hurt all the more that one of the worst times I was stuck the puzzle kept repeatedly calling me a fool. Still, despite all that, I love La-Mulana.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      I somehow doubt that Spelunky can randomly generate equally clever riddles as are in this game. Also! You don’t necessarily need to spend any cash money, you can grab the freeware original to get a feel for the game (though the remake is much improved, as I’ve said previously)

  5. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    I’m not a fan of the new art. The animation is good of course, but the sprites and backgrounds are using too many colors for that resolution and that just makes everything look a bit muddy.

    • cce says:

      I just created an account to say that you’re spot on, and that Lone Survivor’s graphics had the same problem. Bring back the limited palettes, please!

  6. Dominic White says:

    Okay, normally I don’t link to my own work here, but there’s a lot of questions, and I did a comprehensive review of the game here: http://www.indiegamemag.com/la-mulana-review/ – Hopefully it answers some questions.

    I’m shocked at how this has completely flown under the radar here. ALL the indie sites were talking about this one. It was kinda the biggest bit of indie news of the past month.

    • Xerophyte says:

      I doubt it flew under the radar as much as it was released just after UK office hours last Friday. I’m guessing that’s the single worst time possible if you want release buzz on RPS.

      • Adam Smith says:

        I’ve been waiting for the release for ages but I’ve been separated from my computer for a couple of days, otherwise I would have been shouting about it all weekend.

        It’s a brilliant game and I’d love to write more about it. Time is ever fleeting though.

        • Skabooga says:

          I really would love to read your retrospective on it, should you ever get around to writing one.

  7. Gnoupi says:

    This reminds me that I’m waiting for Spelunky XBLA to land eventually on PC. It will, most likely. But in some time.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Xantonze says:

    Hi there! Is joypad supported in the game (360 et al.) ?
    Cheers!
    EDIT: Found it: it’s supported. Sorry for the useless post.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yep, native 360 controller support, although any modern gamepad is usable.

    • Xerophyte says:

      Yes, 360 pads as well as old DirectInput stuff. I’m using a PS2 pad which has worked fine so far.

      Edit: Oh my. I’m really not doing a good job of beating Dominic to answering questions in here…

  9. Premium User Badge

    Xantonze says:

    Thanks guys. I played about 1 hour: awesome game!

    Some beginner tips:
    -put weights (found in shops or on enemies) on little brown squares (push down) to activate mechanisms, such has opening chests.
    -take the loot in open chests by hitting them with your weapon.
    -save at the little brownish altars which look like tombs (but aren’t).

    BTW, how do you look at the maps you find??

    PS: Spelunky is indeed available on XBLA.

    • Dominic White says:

      The guide video above helps a lot. Don’t try and jump into this game blind.

      You need the map-reader software (available in the village) to use maps. Same store as the Glyph Reader, I believe.

      The absolute first ‘big’ goal of the game is finding the Holy Grail. It’s in the Gate of Guidance (the first area), behind a fake wall that a skeleton is lying against on the right side of the level. The skeleton has a note saying that it found a secret exit. It lets you teleport freely to any of the save points that you’ve scanned.

      Also, scan EVERYTHING.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Xantonze says:

    Thanks, I did watch the video, and read the manual as well.
    How do you scan? You need an item/software as well?
    (the help file doesn’t contain the joypad layout…)

    EDIT: Thanks again. Found the scanner and the glyph reader (I thought I already bought them from that early shop, but it was in another game…ahem!). Also found the Grail…Guess I’m settled, now!

    • Dominic White says:

      The options menu shows you the controls, and lets you configure them to your liking. I think the Y button on a 360 pad is the default for Use Item, although you need to equip the gadget first.

  11. Premium User Badge

    golem09 says:

    Hmm, I really want to play this, but I still have so much other (new) stuff to play. And I guess I wait for the steam version. As Dominic said, it’s on the second try to apply now, and if that fails greenlight will probably be successful.

  12. Bhazor says:

    … how does she know about my secret box of tissues?

  13. Totally heterosexual says:

    Hell yes. Fucking love La-mulana. Spelunky is nice and on all but it does not have nothing on La-mulana.

  14. Dominic White says:

    Oh yeah, the remake does change a little more than you might think. A lot of puzzle solutions have been changed, and the locations of many key items have been rejigged in order to trip up returning players expecting to speed through the game with their knowledge of where to find everything and where to go.

    There’s also quite a few completely new puzzles, to compensate for some of the really obscure ones in the first game being simplified or having better advice given to you by Xelpud, Mulbruk and the Fairy Queen. The biggest change is the combat. There’s more weapon types, and even the mini-bosses are challenging now. Previously, combat was an afterthought that you could just button-mash your way past. Now it’s roughly on par with the platforming and puzzles.

  15. JackDandy says:

    Man, oh man. I bought it day one, but a backlog’s keeping me from it. Damn it!

  16. Hoaxfish says:

    This is one of those games where I last about 30 minutes before ending up in a constant loop of dying and looking up walkthroughs

  17. pilouuuu says:

    So many great memories of MSX! My first computer! And this reminds me of Terramex. Is it anything like that?

  18. Premium User Badge

    golem09 says:

    So now it’s on greenlight.
    And the low rating it has so far shocking!
    http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=93001822&searchtext=
    GO RATE IT NOW.

    Also, rps, please do another article on it now to get some PR.