Creat Studios has generated an impressive library of addictive and quirky downloadable titles on the PSN over the last couple of years. Dabbling in various genres with titles like the RC car racing Smash Cars and the fast-paced, fungi RTS Mushroom Wars, their latest release Labyrinth Legends combines cel-shaded visuals with polished combat and clever puzzles for an arcade dungeon-crawler that is accessible to both fans of the genre and casual gamers.
Following the old-school scenario of “boy saves girl,” an unnamed hero witnesses the abduction of his bride by a mysterious foe and sets out on a quest to save her. Played from a top-down perspective, Labyrinth Legends will leave you navigating through maze-like levels full of claustrophobic paths and rooms set in ancient ruins, wooded areas, and dungeons. Starting in complete darkness except for a spotlight on our hero, portions of the environments slowly begin to reveal themselves as you move onwards. Accompanying the pleasant cartoon visuals is a catchy soundtrack further enhanced by additional sound bits like malicious laughter and taunts of “Beware.”
Cautiously treading through dangerous paths and uncovering secret locations is a huge part of Labyrinth Legends, and as such, there are no randomly-generated levels. This allows for some fantastic and intricate puzzle design that grants you the ability to memorize your surroundings. From floor tiles that trigger deadly spinning blades to block-pushing puzzles in rooms filled with toxic gas, each level has enough puzzles to test your reflexes and patience. Depending on the intelligence of the player, some of these puzzles can be quite frustrating. My patience grew wreary during an earlier level in which I needed to lead a Mage to safety. Without direct control of his movement – aside from a simple swap mechanic – he took on the blunt of the attack from relentless enemies, and since his health can not be replenished his death lead to an instant Game Over screen – and an ample amount of profanity.
You will face an assortment of enemies like zombies, mummies, and knights. Each are easy to dispose of when faced with 1 or 2 using either your basic attack or whirlwind maneuver – you can even block incoming attack with your shield. The difficulty increases once you are surrounded by a relentless horde. When outnumbered, the hazards within the environment can be used to your benefit. Lead a group of zombies to a path on top of an empty abyss and knock them off the edge or my personal favorite, hit a green pipe and a mushroom will appear that will shrink your enemies size in half – an obvious tribute to everyone’s favorite Italian plumber.
With the odds stacked against you, locating hearts to replenish your health and figuring out the best strategy to survive an onslaught of enemies is an essential. Too many hits and its Game Over, and with no checkpoints, that means you will start from the very beginning of the dungeon. This becomes increasingly frustrating when you are near the end of the level or you dealt the final blow from a sub-boss who has only a sliver of health left. It’s never fun to have to replay a level multiple times in order to get past that one tricky situation, so it’s difficult to apprehend the lack of a save system. This is further apparent when certain puzzles can actually force a restart if done incorrectly.
The complexities of the dungeon-crawler genre have been streamlined and you will still participate in traditional objectives like collecting keys to unlock doors. Breaking barrels, opening chest, and killing your enemies will earn you treasure, armor, and weapons but they have little effect on gameplay. Collecting treasure will increase your overall level score while any weapons or armor you collect will automatically upgrade your character. Each dungeon has five stars associated with it. Some are easy to obtain while others will take some trial and error in order to obtain them. Collecting a certain amount of stars will allow you to unlock new levels.
Aside from the single player campaign, Labyrinth Legends offers three multiplayer modes. Up to 4 players can participate in either Survival, Race for Treasure or Domination (arena-style battle). Each are fun and rather lighthearted in there own right but sadly they can only be played locally. Leaderboards are your only source of online interaction, so going back to replay levels to earn bonuses based around kills, completion time, and collected treasure will increase replay-value.
In the end, Labyrinth Legends is a solid downloadable experience that pays homage to old-school titles where stories were minimal but addictive gameplay and steep difficulty kept you coming back for more. The lack of a checkpoint system may come off as being cruel, but the great level design and intricate puzzles will leave you with a sense of accomplishment once completed.