I've been putting this review off for such a long time that the .txt file on my desktop has been gathering dust. But that's just the thing: This game, despite my utter hatred for it, still left a deep impact (or stab wound rather) on me and it has become essential for me to voice my opinion.
What is there to say that hasn't already been said about the controls? They're downright awful. Lemeza floats like a butterfly when he jumps, but carries the momentum of a cannonball when you flutter over to the next screen. Often times, this led me to smash the arrow keys in the opposite direction in a futile attempt to correct my ever so graceful jump and avoid unforseen hazards. Unfortuantely for Lemeza, he would only look the other direction as he was flung into a lava pool or spike pit.
However, strangely enough, if you jump straight up into the air, then use WASD mid jump, you become liberated from these cruel forces of momentum. Apparently, Nigoro wasn't going for realistic jump physics then, so what's the point of punishing the player for taking mandated leaps of faith?
I could go on about the controls (frequently, I would reset from my last save point than try to get out of water or lava. It was just simpler than trying to jump out of the liquids) but I need to talk about the actual origin of this game. You see, I'm with Nigoro for bringing back challening, MSX-era puzzle platformers. I love games like this. However, if you want to resuscitate the genre (and do a remake no less!), there's no need to keep primitive controls, limited save points, unforgiveably bad physics, and, possibly the worst offender, long walks back to boss fights. When I lose to a boss, I want to get right back into the fight, not drag my knuckles in shame across seven screens (Usually taking damage before the fight, and maybe failing a few platform jumps) to have another go. There is so little polish in these details that it's offensive. They are hideous warts on an already dead and bloated frog.
As long as I'm talking about boss fights, why is it that they feel so unrewarding? Most games of this genre will offer you a new weapon or health upgrade after sticking it to one of these big baddies. What's the usual boss reward in La-Mulana? An unlocked door in a far flung corridor, or a shortcut leading to somewhere you've already been. Not to mention that nearly every boss in this game is a variation on "Equip best weapons and whack them in the face". Sure, the bosses are visually appealing and they terrifyingly tower over Lemeza, but when I can scour the ruins for all the health ups (or just use the ♥♥♥♥ing gun! Why on earth would you include a super powerful weapon like this? Once the player farms money, they can pay their way through boss fights!) and fling myself over and over at the guardins until they submit, it doesn't feel rewarding in the least. In fact, it proves again how little polish went into this game.
I don't want to talk about the puzzles in the La-Mulana too much; The game itself certainly doesn't address them. If you want to solve most of these esoteric and far fetched enigmas, you're probably going to wind up on the FAQ, which, in adventure games, I consider to be the equivalent of inviting a sweaty man from the internet come over and help you pee. It IS indeed an apt comparision because puzzles should flow naturally into the game, not impede you until you figure out the solution. I get that this was common in past eras of gaming, but we've since grown up. It's another blemish on the bronze aged face of gaming that can remain in antiquity.
And when you do cave to use the FAQ, the solution to the puzzle in your way will cause you to exclaim one of two things:
"That's so simple, how could I not figure that out!?"
"How are you supposed to know this!?"
All in all, La-Mulana will make your blood boil and fill your swear jar. It's not a game: It's a chore. A highly complicated chore that just doesn't feel worth doing. Like giving a playground bully an emergency appendectomy only to have him kick sand in your eye afterwards.
Play the original game on an emulator; You'll conserve a lot of time and frustration by using save states. Not to mention that the original has throwback graphics and 8 bit music. These are the things from old gaming that have actually aged well. And get this: With simplistic graphics, some of the puzzles are actually easier in the original version since there's less clutter. They're still hard, but at least you'll feel like you're walking through a piece of history than play this version.