Labyrinth Legends

Labyrinth Legends

Mechanics are simple and to the point. Your character has a basic attack that can be issued repeatedly and a giant swinging attack when things get hairy. There’s also a block (that’s way more effective than it seems) and a dash move that is surprisingly adept at causing damage. Additionally (and I didn’t know this until I was almost halfway done with the game) the main attack can be charged to obliterate large chunks of health bars.

Five stars can be found in each level. Two or three are basically out in the open to insure you can actually move onto the next level, but the other three typically require extra work. Obscured doorways play a large role in this, but merely finding said doors isn’t enough. One time, for example, I had to annihilate hoards of skeletons until I destroyed the gravestones they were infinitely pouring out of. Others involve pushing and pulling blocks around mazes, throwing switches, and trying not to get sawed in half by giant sawblades. At the end of Labyrinth Legends I had about 75% of all of the stars, and I thought I was fairly thorough in my quest.

For a game with a lower tiered price I was expecting a fairly mindless demon bashing adventure with some¬†confectionery¬†knuckle dragging puzzles. Should you choose to engage them, Labyrinth Legends puzzles escape their fate and are anything but lazy. Even most of the box puzzles are well thought out and require a bit planning to circumvent. Labyrinth Legends hits the player with an occasional countdown, but never relies on text or other superfluous declarations to explain itself. It’s a small and often overlooked facet, but I always appreciate when games can communicate their ideas without resorting to a vapid text dump.

Labyrinth Legends’ narrative is pretty basic. Someone stole our hero’s soon-to-be-wife and he needs to travel through sixteen different dungeons in order to retrieve her. Labyrinth Legends tactfully lacks much of a narrative, and thank god. It’s a dungeon crawler and is prepared to indulge exclusively in dungeon crawling. Covering ground, Labyrinth Legends is packed with plenty of charm. Your character’s ghost popping out when he walks off a ledge and the childlike influence behind the art direction provides Labyrinth Legends with the atmosphere of a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s cheeky and not entirely original, sure, but its brand of skeletons, zombies, and fire pits are clear in their intentions and don’t distract the player from his mission.

It looks like a lighthearted affair, which is ironic considering Labyrinth Legends is always trying to murder its hero; the penalty for dying is repeating the whole level. I love when games play for keeps like this (dungeon crawlers especially would feel fraudulent any other way), however their methodology has to remain intact, and this is where Labyrinth Legends sometimes falls short. There are the prerequisite “gotchas” when you unknowingly flip a switch and find yourself at the wrong end of a sawblade, but the game makes good on this by only taking a heart or two of your life instead of forcing a complete retry. Unfortunately there are other instances where the slippery controls navigate our hero right off a bridge, or where a gang of zombies render movement impossible, or your occasional and idiot wizard partner forgets how to fight and ends the level for you. This lack of polish can feel frustrating.

Labyrinth Legends’ frustrating moments are simply that; moments. The remainder of the game can either be an automated appointment to bash baddies as fast as possible or an enjoyable afternoon where you spend four or five hours trying to squeeze out every last star. The competitive minigame is a bummer (as is the absence of a cooperative option for the campaign) but, for ten dollars, much beyond the main course isn’t really expected.

Eric Layman is available to resolve all perceived conflicts by 1v1'ing in Virtual On through the Sega Saturn's state-of-the-art NetLink modem.