Ever since I heard the term in one of my university classes, I’ve always been fascinated by the concept of remediation in a digital age. This refers to the way that the limitations of older-technology lives on through the design decisions they forced developers to make.
La-Mulana, now available on the Vita (courtesy of Pygmy Studio and Rising Star Games) as La-Mulana EX, is a fascinating example of this – using the powerful game design tools of today to capture the spark of yesteryear.Originally developed by Japanese Indie Game outfit Nigoro, La-Mulana EX sees you take on the role of a whip-wielding archeologist named Lemeza Kesugi as he delves into the depths of the titular underground labyrinth.
Though there’s plenty of reading that fleshes out the history (and mystery!) surrounding the ruins, the storytelling in La-Mulana EX is pretty light-handled – though there are some fun characters like Malbruk and the Village Elder Xelpud who lighten the proceedings with some quirky and comical dialogue.Where the original La-Mulana featured a relatively rudimentary visual style, the WiiWare version brought with it a gorgeous graphical overhaul. As the latest rendition of the game, EX stands as the most technically-polished edition with several streamlined sequences that make you wonder where the designers drew the line. It also features a new ‘Bestiary’ function which tracks the enemies you encounter throughout the game – valuable to newcomers like myself (though I used it more infrequently the further I progressed).The soundtrack plays a big role here, helping establishing the tone of each area and evoking a catchy-as-hell retro-vibe that kept me coming back to the game through its most frustrating parts. Yet another non-linear platformer in mould of a Castlevania or Super Metroid, La-Mulana EX distinguishes itself from the rest of the genre by privileging puzzles and exploration over combat. This approach, combined with some truly superb level design, are what makes La-Mulana good – but it’s the ambitious systems that go beyond this mechanical trinity that make La-Mulana great and give it the ‘Dark Souls Meets Castlevania’ label it wears with such pride.