Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
While Lara Croft is shooting a bear in the face, Nathan Drake is hanging out the back of a plane, and Indiana Jones is squabbling with his dad, the heroes of La Mulana are doing the real work: taking notes, reading patterns, drawing maps. Whether you’d prefer to call it a Metroidvania or an exploration-based puzzler, La Mulana [official site] is the smartest game in its class.
With a sequel incoming, it’s a fine time to revisit La Mulana, or to visit it for the first time. It’s a wonderful game, though certainly tricky enough to be offputting if you’re not in a patient mood. You’re exploring forgotten places and while there are enemies to fight, with some extravagant bosses among them, it’s not the monsters that you need to fear – it’s the possibility of losing your way.
You’ll always be able to find your way back to the surface but if you don’t pay attention, and make those notes and maps, you might not know what do to next. Few games are so willing to trust in the player’s intelligence and observational skills to the extent that La Mulana is, and if you sprint through, heading in the general direction of treasure, you’ll end up trapped, dead and directionless.
Go slow and remember that no detail is accidental.