La-Mulana (WiiWare)

Game Review

La-Mulana Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Marcel van Duyn

WiiWare's last big game?

La Mulana's WiiWare release has been a rocky road. It was first announced by developer Nigoro in 2009 and suffered several delays before finally hitting the service in Japan in 2011. Of course, most were expecting it to be released elsewhere soon after, but that didn't happen. It was eventually cancelled by its old publisher Nicalis earlier this year, before then immediately being picked up by EnjoyUp Games and finally seeing a western release a few months later. Has it been worth the wait?

This version of La-Mulana is a remake of a freeware PC game with the same name, originally released in 2005. Heavily inspired by the MSX system, which was very popular in Japan, and especially Konami's Maze of Galious which was released on it, it can most simply be described as a Metroidvania game with a large emphasis on puzzle solving. The original freeware version featured MSX-like graphics and sound, but this remake has visuals on a level comparable to Super NES, and almost CD-quality music.

The game has a plot which might not seem all that important, but if you pay close attention you'll be able to find lots and lots of information scattered around. The basic premise is that professor Lemeza has decided to venture into the ruins of La-Mulana in order to find a long lost secret treasure before his dad — who is also his rival — can lay his hands on it. Things start off simple enough, with an outside area called the Surface, where you can get a grip on the controls, stock up on supplies and talk to the strange village elder, who tends to give you hints whenever you find a new item and show it to him.

The controls are fairly simple. You can of course run and jump around, as well as swing your weapon, but you'll quickly also be able to use a sub-weapon, as well as a usable item, all of which are mapped to different buttons on the controller. Jumps are of the classic "can't control your momentum" type, so if you jump while moving right or left, you'll keep going right or left. A sneaky way to get around this is to stand completely still and jump straight up, not moving until you start coming back down — this will give you full control while falling and can come in handy during a lot of sections.

Although La-Mulana is fully playable with every single controller type available (including a USB keyboard!) and the controls are fully customizable, we recommend not playing with a sideways Wii remote as this will force you to use the A and B buttons, which can be slightly annoying when you have to use them while moving.

After messing around on the Surface for a bit, you'll venture into the ruins and things will immediately increase in scope; the first area alone has connections to three others right off the bat, and you can do something in every one of them. You'll eventually have access to nine main areas, as well as nine "backside" areas which are essentially counterparts to the main ones. They're not mirror images, as they have completely different layouts and puzzles. Thankfully, the very first area contains an extremely helpful item that'll let you warp to any area in which you've located a warp tablet, so there's no pointless backtracking.

Despite the graphical and musical updates, La-Mulana is still very much a game for the hardcore and skilled gamers out there. Several things are not really explained, there are plenty of breakable walls and blocks with no indication of something being behind them, you can run into instant death traps, there's no way to heal aside from filling your XP bar or jumping into a hot spring, and the puzzles can range from incredibly simple to incredibly ridiculous. These puzzles are always fair, however, because the solutions always make sense and every single one of them has a related hint somewhere in the ruins. It might not be in the next room over, but it's out there somewhere. A nice feature the developers have added for this purpose is the ability to record pieces of text, so you can carry them around with you and pull them up when needed. Of course, the storage space for these is limited, so be sure to delete ones that you've already used.

Despite this though, you are almost guaranteed to get stuck eventually. Aside from boss battles, just running around and exploring is usually not really that difficult, but even with the correct hints the puzzles can be very, very hard to solve. Don't be ashamed if you can't figure out a solution, because there's likely to be many, many other players who won't be able to get it either. Either run around some more until it hits you, or just look up the answer — we wouldn't blame you!

Like any good Metroidvania game, there are also plenty of items to collect. There are five primary weapons, from a good old whip to a katana, as well as 8 sub-weapons (which have limited ammo and require you to buy or find more) such as shuriken and caltrops, plus three different shields which can also be used in the sub-weapon slot to block projectiles. On top of that there are several usable items which, aside from the scanner used to read bits of text, are generally only used very rarely: treasures which grant you passive abilities, and seals which allow you to open up several puzzles and hidden places.

That's still not all, because there's also a detailed "software" system. Professor Lemeza has a laptop with him at all times and can, once he's found them, install several programs on it in order to enable specific features, like displaying a map on the pause screen, allowing you the aforementioned ability to save text, or receiving emails from the elder with further hints.

This system gets even more intricate later, as there are several hidden Nigoro games (not actually playable) scattered around the ruins which only grant you a special effect when used in certain combinations, such as longer invincibility time after being hit or increased whip power. Only three pieces of software are actually necessary to beat the game, but collecting them all can be a great help to the less experienced players.

Two real highlights of the game are the graphics and music, which as mentioned earlier have a Super NES vibe. The 2D graphics have a lot of charm with detailed sprites and backgrounds, and the soundtrack is incredible, with a variety of long, high quality tracks, a different one for each area and each individual boss. You'll find yourself remembering at least a couple of them, the likeliest being the Surface and first area themes.

La-Mulana is a massive game, with lots of areas to visit, tons of puzzles to solve, items to collect, plenty of enemies to defeat and... well, you get the idea. Depending on both your action and puzzle skills it can take anywhere from three to over twenty hours before you finally see the credits roll, which is quite a feat for a WiiWare game. Unfortunately, while Japan was able to purchase some DLC which added a Time Attack mode and a secret super hard bonus area from the original game, Nigoro was unable to include this in the western version and it was, supposedly, part of the reason for the delay. To make up for the wait though, we're able to get the game slightly cheaper than in Nigoro's homeland.


It's been a long wait, but WiiWare fans can now finally get their hands on this lesser known indie classic. Beating it can be an incredibly daunting task for less experienced players, but despite all of the difficult puzzles and fights there are lots of features that make the experience much less frustrating than you'd think it would be. With this title's significant size, if you can't beat one area you can just go to another first, so there are always options to progress. The lack of DLC is a bit of a disappointment, but the basic game is still, in a word: perfect.

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User Comments (69)



Dazza said:

Good to see it was all worth it in the end! Congrats to EnjoyUp for bringing this classic to WiiWare. Great review @Drake!



EdEN said:

I'll be playing La Mulana over the weekend for a review. Oh, what a fun weekend it will be!



theblackdragon said:

so apparently it's worth the wait! time to dust off the Wii Points card i've been saving for this very day



ReaperX30 said:

Got it yesterday as soon as I woke up but haven't had the chance to play yet. Can't wait to play it this weekend. Great review......I nearly called in sick at work...nearly......but no I need the money



XCWarrior said:

Go buy it people. How often do you see a 10? Not often. It's well worth it. And nobody make the stupid "dust off the Wii" BS. If you are a gamer, you should have spent most of the summer playing Xenoblade and The Last Story.



The_Fox said:

Huh....Maybe I'll dust off my Wii to give this a shot. I'm a little skeptical I'll find it as good as Marcel did but we'll see.



OorWullie said:

@Brando67854321 You aren't really getting ripped off are you?You're getting the original game for slightly cheaper than Japan did,just minus a time attack mode and a super hard bonus area.Considering how huge and hard the game is supposed to be anyway its not such a big loss is it?Why deprive yourself of a long awaited 10/10 because of such a minor omission?



C-Olimar said:

This was never on my radar but tbh I kind of want EnjoyUp to at least break even on this, so I'm more inclined to buy it. And it's also clearly a great game.
On the other hand, it's pretty unlikely that the sales target will be reached, and I don't want to line the pockets of the greedy fatcats at Nintendo...
Tough decision.



OorWullie said:

@Brando67854321 Well you never know,if they were to sell enough copies they may even release the DLC but if there was more people of your opinion then that's less sales and less chance of it appearing



idork99 said:

I can't recall ever seeing a 10/10 on this site but do take account that I've only known of NL's existence for less than a year I'll definitely have to try this once I purchase a Wii U.



Hyper_Metal_Sonic said:

Does anyone by chance know how large the game file is? I need to do some cleaning on my Wii cause my SD card is currently full at the moment and my larger card is being borrowed indefinitely.



DaveyBoy said:

Got it yesterday. Brilliant game and well worth the wait and its the first WiiWare game I bought since Hydroventure back in Xmas 2010! So there's no DLC forthcoming? If that the price to pay for having it released worldwide and giving WiiWare a decent game to bow out with, then who's that bothered. Their loss etc etc



Hyper_Metal_Sonic said:

@Wildfire Thank you! I appreciate it. I've got some cleaning to do!

On topic of the review itself: Really glad it got a 10/10! It looks absolutely fantastic and heard great things when it came out on PC. I'm saddened as well about the lack of DLC, but at least its $5 cheaper than the PC version so we're not getting ripped, just left out. But the game seems to pack plenty of content (and to be honest, with games like Cave Story I still haven't gone back to some of the bonus content)




Been following this game for a while, but waited fo the review before buying. Will buy this asap now! Really looking forward to it!

And Brando67854321: You obviously do care, otherwise you wouldn't be reading the review, or commenting so frequently.

This seems like a game that deserves to be supported, so that is exactly what I'll do!



GeminiSaint said:

I got this game the minute it went up. Also, I fully agree with the reviewer's score. 10/10 stuff indeed!
Oh, BTW, if anyone wants the missing DLC, they can always get the PC edition of this game via Playism (and maybe Steam too, when it gets greenlit).



theblackdragon said:

@Brando67854321: They're right — if you really didn't care, you wouldn't still be replying with the same things over and over. I'm sorry you're disappointed, but let's allow others to have their say as well, please. :3



Drake said:

Unfortunately it really seems like the lack of DLC is completely Nintendo's fault, adding it to the main game would've made it too big for WiiWare and Nintendo of Europe/America apparently didn't want the game to have DLC.

Like others have said, if you want the complete package get it on Playism or vote for it to be on Steam (Actually, do that anyway).



ejamer said:

I think the lack of DLC is being overstated. Most people wouldn't end up trying the DLC, as the game is already very long and very difficult. Everyone buying the WiiWare release is getting a discounted price because that DLC isn't available, so most people are getting a better deal than what was offered in other regions. Anyone who really does care about the extra challenge has an easy out: the game is available at a low price in other formats with the DLC included... so just go buy the version that best suits your needs instead of complaining here!

Regardless, it's great to see La-Mulana finally get released and to hear other people who are also excited about it. Congrats to Nigoro for not giving up, and thanks to EnjoyUp for letting fans like us get to finally play this hidden gem.




WiiWare's 43mb restriction is an unwelcome constraint, however that hasn't stopped some really great games being published on it: MotoHeroz, World of Goo, Airport Mania, Bit.Trip.Runner to name a few.

The service may not be for everyone, but I'll champion it all day long for the triumph's it has supplied.



nasachi said:

absolutely incredible awesome game, i totally agree with 10/10 score

and did anyone say Demons/Dark Souls or Meat Boy would be hard games... sorry, they're a piece of cake compared to La Mulana (but LM is so damn motivating and never unfair, can't stop playing xD)



theblackdragon said:

I was polite about it before, Brando67854321, and perhaps that was my mistake — you're being disruptive. Please stop.



Adam said:

Lots of games try to be retro. This game is the real deal. It is just the kind of game I've been wanting since the end of the SNES days. Some will get turned off by the beginning of the game because it is a bit obtuse, but your patience will be rewarded. I didn't check the operation manual (because I am a man), but it might be necessary for some.



earthworm said:

I had forgotten that I added the points for this game to my account about a year ago. I've only played a little so far, but I can tell that it's going to be a lot of fun. Even if I get permanently stuck on a boss or something, I think it will be a worthwhile experience.



ueI said:

There is no way I would ever consider giving this game such a high score if the difficulty is as flawed as you say it is.



sinalefa said:

Great to finally see this, but I am not sure I have the patience to beat this if it is as hard as I have heard.


What happens when you actually play your Wii so much it won't read those two games for being double layered? That happened to me so I won't be buying a new Wii so close to Wii U's launch. When my system is in a good mood it will read TLS, so I have been playing it here and there. And sending it in is too much of a hassle for me.



DarkEdi said:

A must have. I want this game have a lot of sales so Nicalis get angry to lose this oportunity, hehe.



TheDreamingHawk said:

I'm gonna buy this for sure when I get my next point card, regardless of DLC.

(I don't know why, but my posts have been vanishing on this topic. If I ended up rude in my previous posts, I'm sorry, but why couldn't the positive portion about me wanting this game stay?)



Henmii said:

Nice review and nice score! A pity about the scrapped DLC, but I might still download the game (though it arrived faaaaar to late)!



ueI said:

@SandMan Yes, it is. That's like saying a game that crashes constantly is not flawed if it's intentionally designed to crash.



WiiLovePeace said:

Awesome! Can't wait to download this Though the subtitle for the review is wrong... Retro City Rampage is still coming... (I hope)



MitchVogel said:

This game sounds amazing! Haha and there's hot springs too? Pit would approve...



Sabrewing said:

@ueI This isn't I Wanna Be the Guy-type difficulty. It obviously rewards skill-based gameplay and keeps you on your toes with its obstacles, plus it harkens back to an age when games like The Goonies II or Castlevania II gave you cryptic hints and just threw you out into the game world to solve them more or less on your own; but save points aren't utterly uncommon in the ruins, you have an automap at your disposal, and replenishing your life with Soul orbs doesn't take very long. In other words, it's high difficulty that's tempered with it not being utterly insurmountable.



MAB said:

Downloaded this little ripper today and put about 4 hours in so far slap me impressed if you know what I mean. Just goes to show you can make good games with 40 meg if the effort is made I had to tear myself away from playing it because I had so much work to do around the house. Very addictive nice work Nigoro well done.



Omega said:

This is the fourth WiiWare title that NintendoLife gave a 10/10. The other three are:

  • BIT.TRIP Runner
  • World of Goo
  • Moto Heroz

But review scores are only a matter of the reviewer's opinion, I, wouldn't read too much into this anymore. I've been disappointed too often by titles that have received high review scores. For example, I don't like La-Mulana and Moto Heroz. And BIT.TRIP Runner is mediocre in my book.



WhiteTrashGuy said:

I really hope certain VC and WiiWare titles will be playable on the Wii U gamepad, I can see wasting away hours on this. Now we just need the updated version of SPELUNKY!



Marioman64 said:

rating: 10/10
difficulty: 11/10
i can't even find the first boss, but i'll figure it out eventually :3



PixelatedPixie said:

I've played about 7 hours of it so far. Really interesting and fun title. Definitely not a 10/10 in my books, but that's more a matter of taste than a reflection of the game. I'd recommend that everyone pick this up if you're up for the challenge.



Wilford111 said:




MakeMyBiscuit said:

I bought the game AND this was after I just recently bought the the PC version of it

This games just feels at home on a Nintendo console. Do yourself a favor and get it! Your'll be happy you did plus good indie developers like this need to see our love



bezerker99 said:

I had to resize the screen so I could see my coinage and life bar (and whatnot)..thankfully the options allow this sort of thing.

What an awesome game! Pretty tough too.....



Gull said:

I've been playing this for several days now and I hate to be the devil's advocate (and not trying to be a troll, I really wanted to like this), but this is one of the worst games I've ever played. I always wondered what it would be like if you took a character from one game and played a different game with it, like say you took Mario and then played through Contra with him. It completely wouldn't work. The mechanics of the game wouldn't work with the mechanics of the playable character. That's what this game feels like. Challenging the player in this way may seem great for some, but it feels like poor game design to me. Why not give the player a powerful character and then employ a smart game design that has to rise to the occasion? I've never understood the value of challenging the player by leaving them completely unequipped to deal with what the game throws at them. Here we're given a sluggish moving character with an incredibly short attack range, and thrown him into an environment full of fast moving, dynamically patterned enemies (and cheap traps that basically need to kill you once before you learn where they are, which is awesome in a game where progress is hard won and if you didn't go to a shrine recently you're doing it all again). I've heard this game compared to Castlevania by many. I'd say it's like Castlevania if they gave you a whip that was half the normal size and half as powerful, each hit knocked you back twice as far, and all the enemy movements were sped up by about 30% . The jumping mechanics here seem purposely designed to be unintuitive and confusing. Yeah you can change direction in mid-air but only if you jump straight up, then you can move side to side on your decent. This is just needlessly awkward and I can't figure out why this was chosen. The upsetting thing is, I think the game was designed to be this imbalanced, as if tying your hands behind your back and chopping one leg off is just good sportsmanship. I've noticed that the sick joke of the game is that it seems to exploit your character's inherent weaknesses. I've noticed many bosses' weaknesses sit juuuusst outside of the range of your weapons, causing you to take a hit just to get a few hits in. I'm not even getting into the puzzles, which are often obtuse, but you can just look up a walkthrough if you get stuck. But as I've now, I'm wondering why I'm wasting my time with this when it seems like the game is built to be unfair. I like a good challenge, but I don't like feeling like I'm fighting with my character as much if not more than I'm fighting what the game throws at me. You should know what you're getting into with this one. I got sucked into the hype with all the "10's" and praise heaped upon this. If the Ghost 'N' Goblins series isn't your thing, this might not be either.



ueI said:

@Gull I absolutely hate the type of game you've described, though I can't comment on La Mulana because I haven't played it. I have trouble believing that the game is really as bad as you make it out to be. On the other hand, I've hated other games that were very popular.



Omega said:

@Gull I absolutely understand what you mean. I was sucked into the hype before the WiiWare version existed (2 years ago). And I, too, really wanted to like the game. I even played completely through Konami's MSX game "Maze of Galious" before (which is La-Mulana based on) to fully get into the mood.

Then I've played La-Mulana (original PC version) for 24 days and beaten it 99.9%. And, inevitably, I was also annoyed like heck by the awkward design choices, drudging puzzles and unfair bosses you described in your post. At the end I really felt like a donkey's a$$ that I got into this. But I guess this is what anybody deserves for blindly following the hype created by magazines, TV and websites.



Kontergurke said:

@Gull Hmm, I've been playing the game for the last few days, too, and I loved every minute of it. The jump controls may be unconventional but they were never a problem for me. In fact, you get used to it fairly quickly. I heard people complain about Super Metroid's jump controls before, that they're too floaty and difficult to control. But those controls don't detract from these games at all, they're part of it. Once you've learned the controls, you won't even notice them.

Also, I managed to beat the first 4 bosses and explore most/all of the first 6 areas without any walkthrough at all. The only help I looked up before playing was the Beginner's Guide video and the Instruction Booklet, both found on the official website. It contained enough hints to explain the rules of the game and so far, it was more than enough. Of course, I was sometimes wandering around aimlessly, looking for another secret passage I might have overlooked before. But that's what I want from these kind of games. The payoff when you do find the treasure yourself is so much greater than when someone tells you. Still, it's nice to know there are FAQs out there, if all else fails.

About the enemy difficulty: well, that might be a very subjective topic as it depends on what games you've already played. Let me just say that I didn't have any trouble with normal enemies and never felt I was ill equipped for the challenge. But in any case, you're making it sound like tough games shouldn't be able to get 10/10 points, which I disagree.

So, yeah, first post here and all. Just wanted to add my 2 cents. Carry on.



GeminiSaint said:

Okay, La-Mulana isn't for everyone, but I wouldn't compare it to Ghosts & Goblins. They're radically different games. If anything, I find GnG to be far more difficult and unfair. So far, La-Mulana has been very manageable for me. The jump mechanics (intentionally programmed to be the same as in Maze of Galious, to which La-Mulana pays homage) may seem somewhat quirky at first, but you get used to it. Also, while you start out with nothing but a whip, the game is brimming with power-ups, items and upgrades of all sorts. So, the more you build up your inventory by progressing through the game and solving puzzles, the stronger the player character gets. And, it goes without saying, this mechanic is a big part of what make games in this genre compelling.



Omega said:

I wouldn't compare this to Ghosts'n Goblins either. Both games are ridiculous in terms of difficulty but they're very different. Ghosts'n Goblins has no ilogical trial and error based puzzle solving, no teleporters that warp you all over the place, and no cryptic hints that require a walkthrough to understand. It's absolutely straightforward. All you need is some skill and patience.

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