Here we investigate the overlooked, the underappreciated, the Shameworthy titles of the world. Jump in to an existing mission thread and give your thoughts, or start your own to kick off a discussion.
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Re: La-Mulana: You Call THIS Archeology?!

by Bowley » Thu Jan 15, 2015 4:48 pm

I kind of don't want to read what you wrote past the Dark Souls reference, for fear of being too tainted, so I haven't, although I'm sure it's very helpful.

I came at this game like Dark Souls, or Dark Soulsvania, but I think after that first two nights, I need to come at it like Myst, with pen and paper, thoughtful consideration, correlation, trial and error. I think I was hoping this was more of a Meatboy or Spelunky challenge, which it seems to not be at all. My mistake. I will make the necessary mental adjustments.
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Re: La-Mulana: You Call THIS Archeology?!

by Beige » Thu Jan 15, 2015 10:40 pm

It's kinda both is the problem (slash THE BEST THING). This is why I recommended it so highly.

I wasn't kidding when I said La-Mulana is just an extraordinarily demanding game. It asks more of you as a player than any game I've played in memory. It asks a lot of you dexterity wise - it asks a lot of you intelligence-wise, it asks a lot of you patience-wise. Most games choose a focus and stick with it: Devil May Cry is twitch action, Dark Souls is Atmospheric nerve-tester, Talos Principle is chin-stroking brain press.

Seeing a game that just refuses to choose and moreover *does it all exceptionally well* is crazy unique. All the sliders are maxed. I meant it when I said that you need the tenacity and skill of a Spelunky in the twitch parts, the grit of Dark Souls in the nerve parts and the brains of a graph-paper and notes PC gamer for the Riven parts.

Like Dark Souls and Spelunky, the fighting gets easier with time, like Riven the puzzles stay hard through to the end.

This is why I think its theme meshes with its aim so well. You know who else is multiclass multifaceted expert Jack of All Trades? Indiana Jones.

He is both smart AND tough AND resourceful AND determined AND cautious when necessary AND bold when necessary. A lover AND a fighter. This is what Xelpud says right up front and I've said it many times on the board. Only the truly rarified will see shangri-la, **everyone else will die horribly**, ending up as just that skeleton full of spiders in the corner of the frame shot. Jehovah starts with an I.

I'll say it again: La-Mulana exists to chew up and spit out poseurs, full stop. To finish, you must be not just a Gamer, but a Gamer's Gamer. Specialist classes need not apply.

The audience for this game is seriously like, 2 people. It is the antithesis of AAA. The Anti-A, utterly. But if you're one of those 2 people, as I am, it's a high unlike any other.

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Re: La-Mulana: You Call THIS Archeology?!

by Bowley » Tue Jan 20, 2015 4:08 pm

Got the helmet, scalesphere, and two sigil stones in short order last night, which opened up a lot of locations and points of interest to backtrack to that I previously couldn't access. It's nice to have some breathing room, because I was running out of areas to plumb for progress, any progress at all.

La Mulana isn't THAT bad, once you take its temperature. The difficulty and frustration lies within not knowing where to go, or what to do to progress, with only a few subtle hints to guide you. Is this a puzzle? If it is, am I just not understanding it? What does this hint I have even mean? Does it apply to this or something else? Did I miss a key piece of knowledge? Can I even solve it at all without a specific item that I don't even know exists or where to find it if I wanted to? Will that also be a puzzle? Was it one I've already passed? Am I just not understanding THAT, do I need another item that I don't know exists for THAT?

The platforming around temples and whipping baddies can be tough, but it's not too punitive. Your health can sustain a lot of damage (though there's almost no healing options), there's knockback upon taking a hit, but not a lot of, if any, insta-death pits, and it does not take a long time to retrace your steps when you die (10 min lost, avg?). As long as you're saving when you find a save point, you're not going to lose hours worth of progress. This is trivialized further once you get the grail and can teleport to save points, or the healing spring, at your leisure.

There are a lot of "fuck you!" moments, to be sure, you will definitely pay, over and over again, for not being observant and deliberate. Most of the time, it's stupidly funny, as in, I just activated what I thought was a puzzle but spikes came up instead. You rarely die to this, and again, the loss of time is minimal, so it's more funny than frustrating.

However, Eagles are still assholes. Eagles + knockback + long ladders = fuck you, actually, enemies with wings + platforming + knockback = fuck you. No, I think we can boil that down to, Enemies with wings = fuck you. Eagles + long ladders is the Anor Londo roof + archers of La Mulana, so far.
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Re: La-Mulana: You Call THIS Archeology?!

by Beige » Tue Jan 20, 2015 8:58 pm

Sounds like you're cooking with gas now Bowls.

As I said, the pulse of La-Mulana is similar to Dark Souls -- once you take its measure and learn to come at it with the correct attitude and with the correct pacing it's not too bad. It's no I Want To Be That Guy or whatever masocore entertainment product revels in pixel precision and killing players just to be hard for hard's sake. These guys are more the Monokuma / Joker school of art sadists. Killing you for no goddamn reason is not hilarious. It's way more funny if they warn you (obliquely) first.

It's an ornery honey badger at its core to be sure - obstinate and quirky like Xelpud, but it's tameable - especially after you have the grail in hand and warping around and in/out of danger becomes just a thing you can do at will. It's a game full of trollololol no doubt. Put weight on plinth, walls slam down on either side of you. WTFlol, now what?

It's very much a "fool me once..." kind of game. Cue GIF of Giant Bomb guys being kicked off ledge by Dark Souls Skeleton in the cave of giants. Rest assured you won't be kicked off the ledge NEXT time. Fuck those skeletons. Each trap has a 50% chance of getting you at least once until you learn to approach everything with the proper amount of paranoia. I just about spiked my controller through the window when a crumbly stone path dumped me into some lava inches from a save point.

The puzzling can be obtuse, and I'm not entirely sure what they could do about that. "Accessibility" as it is colloquially known is usually a euphamism for having the sharp corners filed off things. You can choose to be difficult and exclusive or you can choose to be accessible at the lowest common denominator. La-Mulana is full of sharp corners and high bars by design. It has to be, else there's no glory in it. The new Holmes game by contrast contains an option to just "skip" annoying puzzles and just get back to the mystery -- yet go on Steam Reviews and you will see people complaining about how they just skipped all the puzzles one by one and then ended up let down by the experience at the end of the day. Well, duhhh.

One thing that the devs have said is that there will be slightly more overt cueing in La-Mulana 2. As in, when you pull a switch and hear a CLICK to signify something happening, they may throw you a bone and show you WHERE in the ruins that thing just happened. I'd be OK with this. The synthesis of information should be the important point, not so much the pixel hunting and running around blind.

You're seeing the LucasArts / Sierra adventure game aspect of it now. As long as you have at least one fresh screen or area that you can ram around on or in, you don't feel like you're at a screaming impasse and you're enjoying yourself. Every so often unfortunately you'll exhaust your available clues and abruptly end up doing the platforming equivalent of combining inventory items to see if anything sticks, running blindly around and banging your head into everything without a solid lead to guide you.

I think this is just an inherent flaw of intelligence-based games. It's unavoidable, though certainly possible to mediate with a well-designed hint system. Now that you've uncovered Mulbruk you have an all purpose resource you can turn to when you get stuck. She usually has useful advice about something or other that'll help set you towards your next goal. It's amusing that they wait to unveil this as long as they do. La-Mulana is at its most frustrating in its first hours. You can argue it's by design, but if so the developers are true motherfuckers.

If I have one complaint, it's just about the frequent arch-subtlety of the clueing. You can ultimately backtrace what the devs were thinking with 20/20 hindsight AFTER the fact, but head slapping doesn't help you when you're stuck for 3 hours with no leads. Fail that perception roll or that INT check and you can go around and around. (shrug) If it were anything else it wouldn't be La-Mulana. Lol this game.
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Re: La-Mulana: You Call THIS Archeology?!

by Bowley » Wed Jan 21, 2015 8:19 pm

The more difficult the challenge, the more accomplished you feel for overcoming it, it's a fact of life. It's the journey, not the destination. With that in mind, I'd rather they preserve all the sharp corners, to preserve the level of challenge, because my immediate reaction is to cringe slightly at the mention of the game cutting away to show me what I've unlocked. It's too, "Fine, HERE, happy now?", too Zelda-like, too hand-holdy. On the other hand, if they stepped up puzzle difficulty across the board I could accept something like that.

It's a fine line, not enough information and you make the game impossible for all but the people who dedicate their life to inspecting every last pixel (there IS an audience for this, people love uncovering mysteries). Too much information and people waltz through your game, unsatisfied.

Then again, there's always gamefaqs. I almost wish to be able to play this game without the immediacy of the internet within arms reach, if just to remember what it's like to play a difficult game on complete blackout. Failing to persevere and figure out the last step in La-Mulana's grail puzzle and subsequently finding the answer on the internet was a bit of a personal downer. That shit is too tempting sometimes.
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Re: La-Mulana: You Call THIS Archeology?!

by Beige » Wed Jan 21, 2015 9:50 pm

Hence why the Steam forums (and this forum) are full of people asking for "soft hints" about puzzles but stopping short of asking to be told the solution to La-Mulana enigmas.

Frequently in this game, just a very subtle nudge is all you need. Think of these boards as Malbruk on demand.
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Re: La-Mulana: You Call THIS Archeology?!

by Bowley » Thu Jan 22, 2015 4:58 pm

Beige wrote:Frequently in this game, just a very subtle nudge is all you need. Think of these boards as Malbruk on demand.


Ok, well right now I'm flush with avenues to explore and leads to follow, but the time will come when I don't, I'm sure. I have unlocked the fairy helpers and killed Bahamut (which was a kind of nutty in an SNES way). Those fairy helpers, I've been waiting for something like that since Kid Icarus. Has the world ever really seen anything like the freed, flying centurion helpers that fight the boss with you since then?

Speaking of Malbruk, thank you for just giving me the book of the dead, instead of making me go find it. I doubt I'll get another jokey freebie like that again.
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Re: La-Mulana: You Call THIS Archeology?!

by Beige » Thu Jan 22, 2015 7:14 pm

Relevant: If you haven't yet, you should read the PDF of the La-Mulana instruction manual available for free download.

http://cdn.akamai.steamstatic.com/steam ... 1420247407

Not just because of the silly kawaii Japansese illustrations (though that's certainly a bonus) or the hilariously translated Engrish. Somewhere near the back is the section where it talks about combining software on the lappy to achieve different effects.

Of note: They specifically mention that you can equip different software combos to summon specific fairies when you need to -- I recall the Key Fairy being particularly useful. I feel like since this is an open secret in the instruction manual, this is fair game. Note: The manual doesn't give you the complete recipes for doing this, just vague allusions to the software in question. There are other crazy effects that are possible with the right software combos equipped, as I recall. One of which significantly strengthens the whip for tough boss fights while removing the ability to Grail.
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Re: La-Mulana: You Call THIS Archeology?!

by Bowley » Wed Jan 28, 2015 4:46 pm

Over the snow day I hit the wall I feared hitting in the previous post. Gone as far as I can go into new screen territory, stumped on multiple puzzles, no idea how to move forward. I actually got up and left my character standing at the Statue of the Giant, in the Inferno area, for half an hour because a clue said to "wait patiently there for spirit words to appear." Of course, nothing appeared. What did I do wrong? I dunno.

And therein lies my biggest problem with La-Mulana's puzzles, you can deduce everything right about a puzzle, the correct location, the correct object(s) involved, and what you basically need to do, but still not complete it, because you have no idea how to interact with the game to accomplish it.

For instance, the Eden puzzle. I had all the clues, I had correctly chosen the right location, had found several of the objects the clues referred to, but nothing happened when I found them, or whipped them, or jumped around them, or into them, or shot them with every projectile. Of course, this led me to doubt that I was even on the right track when, in reality, I had just about solved it. A soft hint from Steam forums a little later, and I learned all I had to do was scan the locations. SCAN, that's it, but that makes no sense! For the past 20 hours scanning was for getting information, so why would I ever think I could interact with the environment and solve a puzzle with scanning being the activation trigger. I wouldn't, and this is what I'm talking about, it's bullshit.

So, on top of trying insane tactics like waiting on a screen for half an hour, I now have to press every button imaginable too, just in case. Ugh, this game.

Anyway, Gates of Illusion, here we go.
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Re: La-Mulana: You Call THIS Archeology?!

by Beige » Thu Jan 29, 2015 7:43 pm

Dude, I told you *specifically* on Steam chat that the key to the Eden puzzle was scanning things. -___- With the scanner. I was trying to prevent this!

I didn't mention the little chime noise, deedly-dee.

Try not to get too frustrated with the Gate of Illusion. You'll need that Try Anything mind in Spades here, more than any other zone. This portion of the game is the part that's designed to just be a straight mindfuck bastard. Even if you haven't done something before, now is the time.

It's all uphill from there.
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