Out this week on PlayStation Network, Labyrinth Legends sees developers Creat Studios releasing another PlayStation 3 game – this time a rogue-like dungeon crawler, albeit one almost perfectly suited to consoles. Long gone are ASCII art and perma-deaths, with this cutesy romp a rather more palatable adventure than something designed to make your hair fall out.
Not that it’s not tough – it might start off easily but the difficulty ramps up quickly enough. I’ve only played the first few levels of the game so far but I’m happy to admit that I died more than once. Sometimes it’s because you’re overwhelmed by bad guys and sometimes it’s down to the level design playing dirty tricks, but the beauty here is that you can learn from your mistakes – repeated runs on the (non-random) levels opening up new ways to tackle the corridors and their inhabitants.
For example: early on in the game you’re faced with a big room full of zombies. Taking them on with nothing but a short sword and a pan for a helmet is folly (as I discovered) but on my second attempt I lured the shambling undead back the way I’d come – past easily avoidable for me but disastrous for their limited intelligence big black rolling balls.
And even then, once they were dispatched, there was a trigger across the room that would have ignited them all with fire.
The controls are easy enough, with two attacks and a block married with the ability to sprint (a move that would have been useful in the situation above) and drag blocks around. You can also open doors and bash treasure chests – it’s all quite easy to understand and learn and actually quite good fun. The main character nips around at a fair pace and any previously dark dungeon rooms or corridors you’ve traversed become permanently lit, at least as far as I’ve played.
The puzzles are quite neat (although somewhat forgiving) and often give way to stars, of which there are five in each level. Collecting these stars goes towards your total, which is then used to open up new levels on the world map. If you don’t have enough you’ll need to go back into an already beat dungeon and try to get more stars out of it – the game resets your count each time so you’ll need to re-grab the ones you’ve already got.
The developers have been teasing a PS Vita version (and this would be a great fit) but on the PS3 the visuals are nice enough. It’s a simply graphical style – somewhat cel-shaded – but it’s consistent and varied enough. The game runs at 30 frames per second in game, but at 60 in the menus and the level select – it would have been great to see it full speed as you’re charging around the dungeons, but it seems rock solid.
The lighting effects are lovely though and warrant a special mention – everything casts shadows and it really helps to create a forbidding, dangerous atmosphere. The lines between light and dark remind me of iPhone game Helsing’s Fire, no bad thing at all.
It’s tricky to judge how much there is to the game, I didn’t get enough stars to see if there are areas in addition to the ones listed on the main map screen [edit: there are] but there’s enough challenge here – especially if you’re going for all the stars in each level – and there are three competitive multiplayer modes too. They’re all local mind – there’s no online apart from some leaderboards, so you’ll need a big sofa and lots of controllers to get the most out of that side of things.
All in all Labyrinth Legends plays well enough, it’s immediately likable and seems to have a steady progression curve that rewards the player with new items continuously, assuming you’re not terrible at it. If you like dungeon crawlers chopped up into bite-sized pieces this may well be right up your street – it’s got that typical Creat polish to it, and nice presentation often speaks volume.
Labyrinth Legends releases tonight in the US for $9.99, and should be out in Europe tomorrow at the appropriate rate. Early code was provided by the developer for the purposes of this article.