There is a certain, simplistic joy to be found in the dungeon crawling genre. For the most part,games of this type have been endless hack and slash sessions involving collecting loot or saving princesses. The better ones have include problem or puzzle solving elements, with “just enough” of a challenge to make you think, but nothing that will have you racking your brain and getting frustration. The genre has a reputation, at least in my eyes, as offering mindless fun, and that is just what I got out of Creat Studios’ Labyrinth Legends.
The premise is as simple as they come: you’re a knightly fellow whose fiancé has been kidnapped by an evil wizard. In an attempt to rescue your bride-to-be, you head off on an adventure through dark castles facing off against various creatures and traps. It isn’t flashy or convoluted, rather, straight to the point, just like the gameplay itself. The story, if we can even call it that, never gets any deeper than that, which is told in a simple animation prior to the start of the game and after its completion.
Don’t expect deep customization or combo systems to be found here! This is a straightforward adventure in every definition of the phrase. The game plays as a top-down, 2D dungeon crawler. Your job is to find your way through the games 16 dungeons collecting a series of stars which are used to open up subsequent stages. Each level has 5 stars hidden through out and you only need 1 to “complete” it; however, if you are going to make it you will need to gather plenty more than that. These stars are hidden through puzzle laden crypts and dungeons, which are also filled with mindless enemies such as mummies and skeleton knights, as well as the occasional boss.
There isn’t a lot of flash involved in the presentation, or the combat system for that matter. You will fend off the enemies with simple, hack and slash style gameplay comprised of a basic slash and a spin attack, as well as the ability to block. You don’t have to unlock more advanced techniques and you won’t be challenged with mastering extended strings of complex button combinations. You will simply be pounding on the square and triangle buttons in what amounts to a button mashing frenzy.
At the same time, you will have to solve routine puzzles such as hitting switches in various orders, moving crates or boxes, and navigating moving platforms, all to either make it to the next room or to unveil a secret passage or door leading you to your next star. As I mentioned earlier, none of these puzzles will have you throwing your controller in frustration; they are designed to just barely break a mental sweat. You’ll be thinking, but not too hard. While there is a certain “retro-joy” to experiencing puzzles like this, that also means that there will be a level of repetition as well, which may turn off gamers and excite others.
As you progress through the various dungeons, you will find that they increase both in size and complexity. Some may on;y be 2-3 “rooms" big, while others will become expansive mazes. Along the way however, you will learn some of the tricks of the trade used in their design, like things to look for in the environment and popular hiding spaces for switches and triggers. This will have you going back to your earlier dungeons seeking out stars you may have missed along the way, It is simple and addictive fun, which is both good and bad.
While the game is an effective display of everything that is good about the genre, that also becomes the game’s biggest drawback: it doesn’t do anything else. Creat never makes an attempt to break the mold of the dungeon crawling genre, or advance it for that matter. The truth is, the description of the game given over the last couple of paragraphs is about as deep as Labyrinth Legends gets. Considering the day and age of gaming, people expect a little more depth to their games, and that is something that this adventure completely lacks. For example, while you can collect a variety of equipment and weapons, but you don’t get to pick and choose them along the way. You just get your upgrade and move forward on your quest. There is a potential for depth, but it is never realized.
There are also some issues that rear their ugly head in terms of the game’s physical controls. A lot of dungeons require pin-point accuracy in your navigation, be it narrow walkways or traversing from one moving platform to another. The game just doesn’t control as “tightly” as these levels need it to; I found myself replaying otherwise simple levels just because I couldn’t make it across a bridge without slipping off of the side. There is a variation in your movement speed with the analog stick, which changes your character from the action of walking to running, but it feels to happen randomly; there is a very small threshold in the distance you have to press the stick to move from one to the other. This makes it insanely hard to walk slowly when you need to, which is actually quite often.
While Labyrinth Legends isn’t a bad game, it does little to make itself a particularly great one. There is some fun to be had with the 2-dimensional dungeon crawling but aside from purists of the genre, players will be left wanting and wishing for much, much more. That isn’t to say that the game doesn’t do its job; this is a pure dungeon crawler by ever sense of the definition and it is fun while it lasts. However, it is over far too quickly and there isn’t anything to make you long for the experience after it has come and gone.
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