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La-Mulana themed puzzlehunt (ideas thread)

A thread for my wishful thinking puzzlehunt design project: a puzzlehunt themed on La-Mulana.

La-Mulana is an "archaeological exploration" 2D adventure platformer, in metroidvania format, first released for PC in 2005, with an updated/reworked re-release in 2011 (and subsequent years) on multiple platforms.  It is strongly inspired by the MSX game Maze of Galious.  The most distinctive feature of La-Mulana is that it basically contains a large number of "puzzles" -- usually riddle-like clues that hint at how to properly operate some sort of mechanism in the game in order to unlock a certain treasure, or to defeat a certain enemy in order to open up a door.

It contains a number of areas, each of which has a major boss "guardian", all of which have to be defeated in order to open up the final area of the game and defeat the final boss.  Unlike many other games, though, finding the boss room is not sufficient to encounter the boss -- it actually requires you solve puzzles that result in two things: the appearance of an ankh, which when activated actually produces the boss fight, and an "ankh jewel" item that allows you to activate an ankh.  Usually, this means two separate sets of puzzles...sometimes spanning multiple areas.

The game lends itself rather well to becoming a puzzlehunt, in my opinion, because of its emphasis on puzzles, and its existing metapuzzle-like structure in the form of these bosses.  Defeating all the guardians gives access to the final puzzles of the game, which include a meta that incorporates elements from all the areas.  Each area is also strongly themed on something, which lends itself to hunt-style theming.


The game consists of eight major areas, plus a starting area and a final area, numbered from 0 to 9.  No, actually, it consists of 19 major areas, because it turns out that each of the major areas has a "backside" area that corresponds to itself (that's 16 areas), plus two versions of the final area, where one turns into the other permanently when all the bosses are defeated.  Plus the starting area (the Surface).  And plus a cameo area that was taken from Maze of Galious (in the original version) or from the original La-Mulana (in the remake).  Plus a bonus dungeon that only exists for the sake of heaping trollish dickery against the player.  So I guess you could say there are 21 areas.  I'm going to ignore the bonus dungeon because it is merely trollish dickery, and there's quite enough other material to work with for even just 18 rounds, or even just 17, where the last round is a set of metas.

Each pair of areas, which I will label as 1F, 1R, 2F, 2R, etc. up to 8F, 8R, consists of one ankh (boss) metapuzzle, and one ankh jewel metapuzzle.  Well, mechanically, in the game, they're just specific puzzles, but you may have to solve other puzzles to get to them.  But they certainly feel like metas, because they're like the culmination of a bunch of puzzles.  Sometimes these bunches of puzzles even span different areas -- but that might be too confusing for an actual hunt.

In the game, you start off at the Surface, and you need to solve a basic puzzle to get the ruins open.  You can also collect an item that tells you when you've solved a puzzle or activated a trap.  It's standard puzzlehunt practice to be allowed to confirm answers, so let's just skip this.

In the game, the puzzles that you need to get those ankh and ankh jewel "metas" are pretty much...anywhere.  In the first area, they're self-contained and easy to find.  The second and fourth areas are still self-contained in this sense, but are more complex; however, solving the third area's puzzles do require at least one puzzle in the fourth area be solved -- though I can't remember off the top of my head whether this is necessary to fight the boss.  After these first four bosses, though, the game really blows open, with partial access to the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth areas, pending the solving of various puzzles.

And then, it's at this point that the game reveals that each area also has a backside.  Another full-size area that corresponds to each of the major areas.  So basically the size of the game doubles.  These backside areas are themed in related ways to their frontsides, and contain more puzzles, of course, and you need these puzzles plus the remaining frontside puzzles in order to navigate the rest of the game and solve the remaining metas.

Roughly at the same time as the backside areas are revealed, the final area is also revealed, and it contains a few puzzles, but cannot be fully solved until all of the eight other areas' metas have been solved, which permanently transforms the final area, gives access to more metas, and then the final boss.

I don't think it's a good idea to have puzzles from everywhere going into a meta.  It gets messy pretty darn quickly, and no hunt has ever done this, except for that one dossier in the 2008 hunt that was for "you" as the suspect, which actually pulled in one "wrongly filed" puzzle from each of the other dossiers.  But if we don't do this cross-contamination, and stick slavishly with the original game's structure, we get problems like Area 1F providing both the ankh and ankh jewel and Area 1R being irrelevant.  So let's just deviate from the game's structure a bit, since we're not designing a game, we're designing a puzzlehunt.

Let's make it so that each pair of areas forms a supermeta that combines two elements.  You can solve each ankh or ankh jewel meta separately, but to solve the supermeta you need to combine both.  For example, Area 3F is themed on the male gender and and Area 3R is themed on the female gender.  The meta answer for 3F could be "SARGASSUM", and the meta answer for 3R could be "BIOREACTOR", and using the theming as well as perhaps some clues having to do with reproductive systems -- e.g. presenting the meta answer for 3F in the form of segments of the tail of a sperm cell, and presenting the meta answer for 3R in the form of portions of the exterior of an egg cell -- one could potentially come up with the phrase "insert tab A into slot B" (i.e. sexual intercourse), from which one could get the action phrase "INSERT SARGASSUM INTO BIOREACTOR", which might reveal that the supermeta solution for 3F/3R has to do with building or somehow presenting an algal fuel cell that probably uses the seaweed Sargassum.

This would allow us to make each frontside and backside round independently solvable (with one key exception), but also make them combinable.


  • edited 2016-01-28 05:21:27
    NOTE: before revealing that there are backside areas, areas should only be numbered with a single number, without the letter.

    Also, unlike in the game, puzzles for individual rounds can't be absolutely required.  There has to be some way of getting by without solving all the puzzles of a given round.  Or a given meta-round, even.

    Also, solving puzzles in a round always unlocks more puzzles in that same round, in addition to the reveals mentioned below.


    Area 1F (Area 1): Guidance Gate

    This area is
    the most straightforward, and can easily act as a full-size round that's
    also a starter round, and introduces the structure of the hunt. 
    Instead of revealing that there are two sides, though, it simply gives a
    standard set of puzzles, that when combined, produce a single meta solution.

    Area 1R: Confusion Gate

    themed on being the opposite of guidance.  In the original, this was
    basically just a bunch of intentionally confusing puzzles -- such as
    being offered a choice between going left or right, and instead the
    correct solution is to take an invisible ladder upward.  And a mess of
    warp points that all led to each other.  And so on.  The remake did
    something even more devious, which was to have a single-screen area
    called "Eden", which apparently contained no puzzles, but actually
    contained one that used some item from elsewhere; solving this puzzle
    dispelled the illusion and revealed the true nature of the area,
    allowing traversal.  For a puzzlehunt, I figured that this round could
    say it has no puzzles, but conceal its puzzles in the page source or
    something.  Then each of those puzzles has red herrings, just because. 
    @MadJaqk came up with an alternative idea which was to have
    intentionally unsolvable puzzles which were actually a different set of
    puzzles operating under different rules, like the style of the 1997 Bill
    and Ted Mystery Hunt.

    Do note that Area 1R is not encountered until about 1/3-way into the game, and correspondingly about 1/3-way into the hunt.

    No idea yet for a supermeta relationship that would encompass the 1F and 1R metas.

    Solving puzzles in Area 1F should gradually reveal the rest of the Area 1F puzzles (of course) and then begin revealing Area 2F and Area 4F puzzles.

    Other areas that expose 1R only give access to the 1R splash page which "contains no puzzles".  The only way to get to the puzzles of 1R is to get around that splash page.  Solving puzzles in 1R reveals puzzles in 2R, 3R, 4R, and 5R, not necessarily in that order.  Solving the 1R meta reveals all puzzles in 8F (a la the Key of Eternity in the game).


    Area 2F (Area 2): Mausoleum of the Giants

    The game has this area contain the story of the giants, who tried to send Mother back to the sky, and built a massive tower to try to do so and also built a giant lake to power said tower, but eventually failed.  The story is largely flavor, but parts of it contain clues to rotating a Nebra sky disk to Sun, Moon, and Stars positions in order to get the giants to do certain things that expose pathways or produce daises on which weights could be placed to solve puzzles (read: open treasure chests containing important items).

    A puzzlehunt implementation of this could involve individual puzzles that each give a piece of a story, and the story, when put together, produces the meta solution.  The theme of this round could be history (the music track for this area is "Grand History", even), so this could be some series of historical events.

    Area 2R: Graveyard of the Giants

    In the game, this is another tomb containing giants, but unilke the Mausoleum, where all the giants are named and important and well-preserved in petrified form, the Graveyard has unnamed giants, with giant body parts scattered haphazardly.  It is implied that these giants were political enemies of the ones in the Mausoleum, and unceremoniously dumped into this backside dimension upon their deaths.  Thus, a corresponding theme could be forgotten parts of history, or fallen civilizations.  A similar meta mechanic could be used.

    Solving Area 2F puzzles should begin to reveal Area 3F, Area 7, and Area 8F puzzles.  Solving 2R puzzles should reveal puzzles in 4R, 3R, and 5R, and possibly 6R.


    Area 3F (Area 3): Temple of the Sun

    Area 3R: Temple of Moonlight

    Here we start to see some stronger theming.  The Temple of the Sun is very clearly meant to symbolize masculinity and manhood, while the Temple of Moonlight is very clearly meant to symbolize femininity and womanhood.  Heck, there's even a picture of an ovary on the wall in the latter area, and a puzzle in the former area involves catching what look like floating sperm all over the place, as well as descriptions outright mentioning this sexual theming.

    The rounds could be relatively mechanically straightforward, but obvious themed on their respective genders.  A possible secondary theme could be sun vs. moon.  And I mentioned an idea for the supermeta eariler.

    If I recall correctly, in the original game, defeating the Area 3F boss (i.e. the Area 3 supermeta) opened up the path to Area 3R, which was the first backside area that could be accessed.  The remake delays this access a bit, I think.  In any case, this seems like a good branching point -- solving enough puzzles in Area 3F should reveal more puzzles in Area 5F and (more slowly) Area 6F, while solving the 3F metapuzzle should reveal 3R.

    Solving puzzles in 3R should reveal puzzles in Area 7, Area 2R (which is redirected through a preview of Area 4R just for flavor's sake because the game does this too), and 1R.


    Area 4F (Area 4): Spring in the Sky
    Area 4R: Tower of the Goddess

    Solving puzzles in 4F doesn't reveal more puzzles in other areas, or at least it doesn't reveal them very quickly -- only at a slow baseline rate.  This is because in the game it's sort of a dead-end area.

    Area 4R, however, does connect to reveal puzzles in several areas, includnig 6R, 3R, and 5R.

    Theming: This pair's theme is a little less obvious.  The Spring in the Sky was built by the giants to power the Tower of the Goddess, which doesn't seem to have been successful...but that Tower does look really oddly technologically advanced, with TV monitors and all.  So I guess the theme could be nature versus technology.


    Area 5F (Area 5): Inferno Cavern
    Area 5R: Tower of Ruin

    Another un-obvious theming pair.  Inferno Cavern is a lava-filled area, while the Tower of Ruin is still whirring with mechanical devices, but Nature vs. Technology has been taken.  Perhaps Energy vs. Matter?  or how about the glory of war and combat vs. the ruin that it produces in collateral damage?  That last one seems to be most like the themes the game uses.

    Solving 5F puzzles reveals 6F and 7 puzzles.  Solving 5R puzzles reveals 4R and 2R puzzles, as well as 1R.


    Area 6F (Area 6): Chamber of Extinction
    Area 6R: Chamber of Birth

    Obvious death/birth theming.  Additionally, the Chamber of Extinction in game starts off pitch-black and very difficult to navigate, so this could be simulated by unlocking puzzles in this area very slowly -- only one is revealed per solve, and reveals from other areas only produce one extra reveal each.  Solving the 6R meta reveals all the 6F puzzles, as in the game.

    Solving 6F puzzles reveals 3F, 5F, and 6R puzzles, as well as the supermetas of Area 9.  Solving 6R puzzles reveals 2R, 4R, and 6F puzzles.

    The fact that 6F and 6R puzzles reveal each other could be used for some sort of reincarnation-themed supermeta.

    There is one particular 6F puzzle that incorporates parts of previous puzzlehunts.  This is in correspondence with the Gate of Time / Maze of Galious segments in the game.


    Area 7: Twin Labyrinths

    In the game, this area is a double-sized area that contains both frontside and backside portions beside each other.  At first, the game flips you between both, and blocks your access to certain parts of teh area.  You can unlock the full area by solving a puzzle in 8F (getting the Twin Statue).  That doesn't seem like a good idea for a puzzlehunt, though.

    In a puzzlehunt, this area could be done one of two ways:
    1. There are only a number of puzzles that would fit a single round, so this looks like a single round that has no backside, but it turns out that each puzzle has two distinct viable solutions.  One then needs to sort out which solutions are frontside and which solutions are backside.
    2. There are roughly twice as many puzzles in this round as in other rounds, and then one needs to sort out which puzzles are frontside and which are backside.

    Then, instead of requiring 8F to reveal all the puzzles here, we can simply have solving the 8F meta reveal a major clue to sorting out which puzzles or solutions are frontside and backside.

    Solving puzzles in 7 reveals the puzzles of Area 8R, as well as the supermetas of Area 9.


    Area 8F (Area 8): Endless Corridor
    Area 8R: Dimensional Corridor

    In the game, getting through 8F requires an item from 1R; otherwise only the top floor of five floors is accessible.  8R is similarly restricted in access, but in a different way; there is only one entrance from Area 7, only one exit to Area 8F, and teleportation is disabled in this area, basically locking the player in until they can get to the exit.  Locking solvers into a room to force them to solve puzzles seems like a bad idea, however.

    So, instead, 8F will function like a normal round but with slow unlocks (like 6F), but perhaps two new puzzles at a time rather than one.  This is more restrictive because only 2F leads into 8F, hence the two instead of one.  Solving the meta for 1R reveals all 8F puzzles.  Solving 8R puzzles doesn't reveal anything extra, except for more of its own ilk and its meta of course.

    As an additional feature -- something that should be covered in the flavortext -- the Dimensional Corridor is actually the proper frontside area, while the Endless Corridor is the proper backside area.  This could be implemented with a supermeta solution that works both ways (i.e. X and Y are viably interchangeable), and the more intuitive solution would be to order them as-is (with the Endless solution as the frontside solution), but the proper solution is to reverse them.

    Theming is a bit difficult but it is notable that 8F in the game is primarly horizontally-designed, while 8R in the game has a lot more verticality.  Perhaps puzzles could be themed on this.  Furthermore, 8R is actually relatively straightforward as far as navigation goes, but instead forces the player to battle a series of minibosses.  This suggests a distinctive style is required for 8R puzzles -- perhaps this round has no words, only pictures and sounds?


    Area 9: Shrine of the Mother
    (Area 9': True Shrine of the Mother)

    In the game, Area 9 counts as a front-side field, and contains some puzzles and key items that must be collected before beating all the bosses, which permanently transforms its layout and makes it newly count as a backside field instead (I think?), where the final boss is encountered.

    In a puzzlehunt, there could be just one Area 9, which contains the following:
    * the supermetas for all the other area pairs (or at least a place to submit their solutions)
    * one or two more super-supermetas/runarounds, which can only be solved after solving a sufficient number of the above-mentioned supermetas.  The game has the following supermetas:
    * * chanting the mantras
    * * medicine puzzle
    * * apparently something new in the remake version
    * * using all the right weapons for the final boss (possibly a runaround thing)

    Solving the last supermeta and/or runaround would be the conclusion of this puzzlehunt.

    The prize -- the "coin" in this case -- would be the Treasure of La-Mulana.

    Additional unused stuff:
    * interactions with the four philosophers
    * interactions with Mulbruk (remake version only)
    * interactions with other NPCs, who offer clues
    * collecting software for the MSX computer
    * software combos
    * something representing actually fighting the bosses, not just revealing them
    * remake only: escape sequence (part of the runaround?)
    * key seals 1 through 4
  • I bailed on La-Mulana pretty early, so I can't comment on the game itself.  "Actually fighting the boss" in a puzzlehunt sounds like it would be either a runaround or an interaction with the hunt staff--the meta solution could be an instruction the team has to perform to actually beat the boss, so something like, "FEED THE BEAST BEANS", and the team has to make beans for a running team member wearing a silly costume.

    I remembered later that the 2007 hunt also had a version of the "impossible puzzle" round.  The Hell Puzzles (at the very bottom of the page) had PDF handouts that could only be solved with information that was unlocked by completing the sin events (I think).  For example, the one handout is a crossword puzzle, but you need the sloth information to know that rather than solving the clues, you actually just take the initial letters.  
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