Written in the Stars – Labyrinth Legends Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3.
With a greater prevalence of mobile and casual-type games being played amongst the wider gaming community, it’s unsurprising that certain aspects of those popular fields should find their way into other, better-established gaming avenues – such as consoles. In terms of Labyrinth Legends (Creat Studios’ latest PlayStation Network release), the most recognisable aspect for those familiar with mobile gaming is the inclusion of a star rating system, which seems to be taken from something like Angry Birds. However, in the case of Labyrinth Legends, the rating system isn’t something that is simply earned by completing a level as effectively as possible, but rather through exploration, combat skills, and a slight dose of luck. This combination of elements appropriately sums up the basis of Labyrinth Legends.
Playing as a newly-wedded groom whose wife is whisked away by a particularly angry looking cloud (controlled by an equally angry looking wizard), players are required to traverse a variety of dungeons and mazes, earning stars (through exploration and puzzle-solving) along the way, with the ultimate objective of freeing their loved one from the sorcerer’s evil clutches. The unnamed groom is forced to face off against a number of enemies, including zombies, skeletons and mummies. Thankfully, your protagonist is able to equip himself with an assortment of weapons and armour, which can be upgraded as later labyrinths are unlocked.
Whilst the game offers 18 different levels for players to peruse, they don’t take a great deal of time to complete, and there isn’t a whole lot of variety in terms of environment. Labyrinth Legends’ single-player campaign is broken down into two main sections: one looking like a typically western take on a fantasy setting, and the other taking its influences from Ancient Egypt. Whilst this changes up the aesthetics of the levels, there isn’t much difference from one level to the next in terms of mechanics, aside from the couple of instances where you play as a scholar character who uses magic instead of melee attacks. For the most part players will be battling enemies, avoiding traps (mainly of the fire or spinning blade variety), and hunting down secret passages in search of those elusive stars.
The main focus of Labyrinth Legends, (other than collecting as many stars as possible), is securing a place on the leaderboards, which can be filtered to include worldwide players or just those on your Friends List. Points are gained by collecting treasure and killing enemies, but you can also gain bonuses by completing levels in a short amount of time, killing every enemy on the map, or collecting each piece of treasure. Stars serve mainly to unlock extra levels, with each level having a certain requirement of stars to be collected before it is accessible. Each of the two regions has a different colour of star, with yellow stars in the fantasy setting, and green stars in the Egyptian setting. These are non-transferable, meaning that whilst you may have 40 stars in one setting, they’re useless in the other.
Presentation-wise, Labyrinth Legends does a lot right. Viewed from a top-down perspective, à la early Legend of Zelda games, and with characters animated in such a way that they could have been ripped from recent XBLA release Happy Wars, Labyrinth Legends has a cutesy façade, which is added to by the cheerful music, and whilst both are fairly simple, they bring an element of fun to otherwise dingy, dreary places (as tombs infested with the undead tend to be). It’s not all fluffy bunnies and unicorn poop though, which you’ll come to realise the first time our nameless protagonist is sliced cleanly in half by a spinning blade. There’s not nearly the amount of gruesome death animations that there were in Limbo, but some caution is advised if you think the graphical setup of Labyrinth Legends makes this game suitable for children.
As you explore the various labyrinths, you’ll notice that you’re not always entirely sure where to go, thanks to a welcome ‘fog of war’ type device which obscures much of the map until your character physically sets foot there. This helps to ramp up the feeling of unknowingness when exploring each level, most of which tend to be quite a bit more sprawling than the initial reveal lets on. Every labyrinth has a few hidden areas, reached either by flicking a hidden switch or exploding a handily placed barrel. Many of these areas offer up the opportunity for an extra star, be it by solving a puzzle or overcoming enemies in combat. Although to an extent these stars are crucial to your progress (because they unlock new levels) as long as you’ve made it through each labyrinth in the first area, the second area opens up for your perusal irrespective of your total star count at that point. Most levels have at least two or three stars that can be reached without going out of your way, and this is often enough to open up the next labyrinth – although the bonus levels for each area require that you obtain all 40 stars for that particular region.
There is a lot of fun to be had with Labyrinth Legends, but the package does include its fair share of frustrations as well. Firstly, and the most common problem that players will encounter, is the fact that placement detection doesn’t seem to have quite enough finesse. It’s all too easy for your character to fall off of a ledge or platform, even when they are seemingly safe on solid ground. This could partly be down to the falling animation triggering too late, or taking too long to convey its message to the player, but there’s nothing more frustrating than being down to your last life, steps away from a labyrinth’s exit, and for your character to fall to his death when you were convinced that you had successfully navigated a particular obstacle. Secondly, Labyrinth Legends has a number of boss fights at the end of some labyrinths, which seem to ramp the difficulty up exponentially compared to the bulk of the game. With super-powered attacks from the boss themselves and a flood of enemies tracking your every move, it’s hard to justify the difference in gameplay. Though the upgradeable armour and weapons do aid you at times, there was definitely a temptation of rage-quitting more than once in a couple of these sequences.
Labyrinth Legends, then, is a lot of fun, but not without its caveats. The experience is surprisingly short, even if it is certainly open to more than one playthrough, and there are several flaws or glitches during gameplay that can cause unnecessary frustrations. For the large part, though, Labyrinth Legends is a lot of fun and fairly unique in its own way, despite the fact that it borrows elements from other games. There is still plenty to do here overall – particularly if you have a couple of friends who own the game and have a competitive streak. Labyrinth Legends seems to be a game that cries out for post-launch DLC, especially in the form of a couple of new regions with different visual styling. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s certainly one that’ll keep you entertained if you’re looking for something slightly different from the norm.
Labyrinth Legends uncovers a score of 4.25 out of 5
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