IMPRESSIONS: LA-MULANA 2 on Switch

Thursday, April 16th, 2020

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There’s a reason I’m tackling LA-MULANA 2 as an impressions piece and not a review. It’s the same reason I’ve never agreed to review any Resident Evil game on the oprainfall site, despite being fascinated by that series. That reason is, I’m hesitant to review games I know I’m horrible at. But since impressions pieces don’t require beating the entire game, I figured I could provide some input for LA-MULANA 2 on Nintendo Switch. Much like Leah in her piece on LA-MULANA 1, I decided I’d give this game a fair shake. Cause I did enjoy the original game when I played it on my Vita what feels like a lifetime ago, despite challenges that felt hardwired into the experience.

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One thing LA-MULANA 2 shares with the original game is the overall aesthetic. I both really like and really dislike the style of this game. For example, I’m all for the chibi sprites and massive bosses. Problem is, that focus on super tiny details makes it easy to lose track of key things. And in a series so obsessed with solving puzzles, that can be a important issue. But early into my time with the game, I was having a good time. The lore of this game world is rich, complex and satisfying to unearth. It’s like being thrust into the role of Indiana Jones, with just as many dire traps itching to kill you.

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Starting out, LA-MULANA 2 doesn’t expect much from you. Sure, it throws a small boss at you called Ratatoskr, which is essentially a large, demonic squirrel, but that’s not too rough. For a game that doesn’t ever hold your hand, the soft start of the game is the closest you’ll get. But once you unlock the Eg-Lana ruins, and start to discover where all these new monsters are coming from, things get real. And not necessarily in a good way. Both this game and the original love testing you without providing enough context or information to fight back properly. To be fair, often by successfully solving puzzles in the proper order, you’ll get armed with the tools necessary to succeed. Take my second encounter with Ratatoskr. At first I tried fighting the fidgety varmint with my whip, and got annihilated. But when I solved puzzles in the preceding rooms first, I was rewarded with shuriken, which made taking the boss down a piece of cake. Those same shuriken also made it possible to defeat the game’s first real boss, Nidhogg, a monstrous flying threat.

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My problem is that the game seems tailor made with one goal in mind – to frustrate the person playing it. I tout myself as a platformer fanatic, and I hold myself as more than decent at challenging games. Which meant absolutely nothing once I unlocked the second real dungeon in the game, a nightmare of fire and ice. The entire dungeon is littered with lava that instantly kills you, as well as dangerous icy patches that mess with your momentum and balance. I hoped I had solved my problems when I discovered a grappling claws artifact. Problem is, you can’t wall climb with them. That would be too easy. Instead, they only let you grasp onto a wall where you touch it, and jump kick away from it. Given that these claws are found in a dungeon full of instant death lava, this was less than helpful. I don’t know how many times I died in this dungeon, but it was probably more than a dozen. Suffice to say, this was the point I decided to stop playing, after some 3 hours or so.

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Now, I don’t want to say that there’s no merit to LA-MULANA 2. Despite the brutal difficulty and lack of explanation for key mechanics, such as how filling the blue meter below your health will restore your health, I did find things to enjoy. There’s great dark humor in the game, and lots of quirky characters. I also really find the overall style of the game attractive, even if the small sprites make things occasionally hard to see properly. And hell, I even like exploring the super dangerous ruins all about. I even chuckled when placing a weight on a sensor caused the ceiling to crush me once. I just wish Nigoro had found a way to balance the experience better. Sometimes sequels manage to do justice to the first game by also tempering the difficulty, but not here. If anything, LA-MULANA 2 might be harder than the first game. At least there I got several hours into it before frustration set in.

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All in all, LA-MULANA 2 continues the trend of meshing a fascinating story and characters with a prohibitive difficulty. If you’re hardcore enough, I’m sure you’ll take that as a welcome challenge. As for myself, I’m gonna have to beat this one day using a guide. I just hope that if we get another entry, the developer finds a way to make the series more approachable to us gamers that don’t revel in masochism.

LA-MULANA 2 | Insane Woman

About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.