Review La-Mulana EX

How's this for retro? La Mulana comes with a 4 by 3 aspect ratio, the Vita's widescreen padded out by some arty user-selectable backgrounds. In the middle of that is the dinky hero, Lemeza Kosugi who you'd be forgiven for thinking was Indiana Jones, or perhaps Fred, or Rick Dangerous, if your gaming habits go back a few decades.

What is certain is that La Mulana is another tough challenge for a generation of Vita owners brought up recently on Rogue Legacy, Spelunky and now Flame Over. This time, much of the toughness comes from layers of clues and puzzles buried across maps and multiple screens as you try to advance. Fortunately, this being a really old game (originally out in 2005 on PC in Japan), there are plenty of guides online.

One of the new features for this EX version is that the levels are more easily accessible, but that you means you can get into trouble that much faster. You really need to potter around the opening screens first, collecting all the requisite goodies from the shops, including a scanner, translator, a gun, weights and other essentials.

Your laptop (quite the modern adventurer, this chap) has limited RAM and you can only run so many programs at once, another part of juggling in the challenge. Once you do go exploring, the flip-screen design means you're popping back and forth between levels, looking for enemies to whip, shuriken or shoot (funkier weapons can be found further in the game), traps to trigger, or avoid, and ways to solve each tricky puzzle, and there are many of them.

Working out the clues will generally get you facing a major monster sooner or later, and you need to conserve (and boost) your health getting past the minions to compete in these major battles. Once you work out a bosses' routine you can figure out how to finish them off, but there's a lot of trial and effort, and save points are few and far between.

Playing is initially a pain with some very old conventions stuck to by the game. Once you jump, you can only adjust your glide on the way down. And lots of deaths may discourage you, but as you get used to the mechanics and the tough bosses, there is  perverse fun to be had.

Score 7/10
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Price: £11.99 on PSN
Dev: Pygmy/ Rising Start
Progress: Blaming it on the Moonlight