La-Mulana is an exploration based sidescroller platforming Metroidvania that was the inspiration for one of my favorite games, Spelunky, so I knew I had to give it a play.
After a fairly slow start I found the game to be pretty engaging. The controls are very strange, with movement being very jerky and not my usual thing, but I got used to it and was enjoying it despite. I was happily wandering the ruins, solving puzzles, and slaying monsters.
I fought a boss while riding through caves on a cart, Ellmac, which was pretty difficult and frustrating but I figure that was my fault for doing it (probably) so early with such poor gear, so it gets a pass. I die after him though in the new area so I figure I'll come back later.
So far the game was shaping up to be better than I expected! I was wondering where I should go next, so I figured I'd head to the Temple of Moonlight. I'd found it before but always died early inside it, so I was putting it off.
In I go and I get to dungeoneering. Can't attack while inside? Got it. New items, puzzles, and all that jazz... great! But where's the save point? I was very close to death when I finally found it. Phew!
Now how do I get out of this place? I spend maybe an hour or so wandering the areas I'd already been, finding a secret weapon, but can't for the life of me figure out how to escape. I love playing games blind, so I leave the game for a bit to ruminate on the area and see if I can think of something I missed.
When I come back, I explore everything one last time, smacking all the walls and trying my best to find anything
I missed. Eventually I break, and I have to look up what the deal is. It shouldn't be so hard to leave the area - after all, I have the map, so I know where all the rooms are...
I'm permanently stuck in the Temple of Moonlight because I didn't pick up the Holy Grail earlier. Apparently there are several locations in the game where this can happen. In a game about exploration
, you can get permanently stuck for apparently exploring in the wrong order
. The game doesn't indicate that one area should be explored before another, or that you have to have this item before you should continue on. The item is hidden too, a puzzle that I had seen but was unable to solve and put off until later.
How is this acceptable design? I was enjoying the game despite the other flaws, but that crosses a line. Maybe it's a fundamental difference in the way Japanese and Westerners design and enjoy their games, but I don't have the time or want to be forced to restart a long-winded game due to game breaking scenarios that are beyond my control.
If you are new to La-Mulana, get the Holy Grail before you explore anywhere, or your game might just end early... and you'll be left very wanting.