Overview – developed by Shinobi Games and Regista, with publishing handled by NIS America, Labyrinth Legend is a retro styled action RPG with hack-and-slash elements. Take on automatically generated dungeons, hordes of monsters and challenging bosses to solve the mysteries of the cursed kingdom. This title is available exclusively on the Nintendo Switch Console platform, a link to the game will be at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for providing the copy of Labyrinth Legend that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting with the story.
Story – Just under the surface of the Kingdom of Kanata lies an enigmatic labyrinth that guards treasures untold. Who but you dares venture into its limitless dungeons, where beasts and secrets abound? There are many adventures that have ventured to this land seeking the treasures, but none have returned as talk of the kingdom being cursed spreads. Can someone solve the mysteries of the labyrinth and lift this curse?
Gameplay – Labyrinth Legend is a top down action RPG, taking place across a variety of auto generated maps, with challenging hack-and-slash combat. The core premise of this title is to clear the different dungeons of the Labyrinth, slaying formidable monsters, collecting treasures and loot during adventures. To achieve the goal of slaying the beasts and claiming the treasure, the player levels up during their adventures to make them stronger.
Inside the dungeons, the player must traverse the different floors of each region of the world map and battle the monsters within. The inhabitants of the labyrinth will try to stop the player, attacking when they are within range with an indicator that appears above their head. Each enemy that is defeated grants experience to the player, along with the chance to drop coins and other resources. However, one enemy in each floor holds the key to the dungeon door, which is collected by defeating them.
In combat, players have the access to two weapon slots that can allow the player to use a variety of weapon combinations, including bows, swords and whips. The weapons each have their own attack style and qualities, making them flexible to fit different play styles in battle. Weapons also have special attacks that can be unlocked over time, as well as the possibility of rare enchanted weapons dropping as loot from chests that can be found in dungeons.
As well as the weapons that can be collected are pieces of armor, resources and coins. The armor provides different benefits based on their rarity and the level of the area, just like the weapons that can be obtained during adventures. It is important to manage weapons and armor effectively in order to maximize their efficiency as combat is very dangerous. This is due to the fact that enemies can swarm the player wiping out a full health bar in seconds in the wrong situation.
The risk of death is an ever present one too, as the player has but a single life with limited options when starting the game for the first time. There is a potion that is provided at the start of the game, with a single charge that gets refilled at the start of a dungeon. Over time, the player can unlock additional potion charges and even a revival item that can bring the player back for an extra attempt at the dungeon. Occasionally, there are fountains that can refill a charge on the potion but they can be rare.
The combat flows well for the majority of the game, with reactive movements and smooth attack animations. The standard and special attacks for each weapon have their own unique looks and animations, allowing them stand out from each other when used. The sword has an arced slash, the whip circles around the player and the bow flies in a straight line, stopping after a preset distance. This allows players to find a weapon that fits their style of play.
Battling enemies, is frantic but rewarding with the attacks coming from all directions with the rush of narrowly escaping defeat. There is a slight problem when there are many foes on screen at once, as it has the potential to overwhelm the player, but the overall gameplay loop in combat is satisfying. The rush that happens when beating a high level enemy or boss in mortal combat, surviving at that last possible moment with only a sliver of health remaining at the end.
There is the option of three different classes that players can use for classes, giving the player additional flexibility in how they wish to play the game. The player is able to create up to four characters that have their own unique skills, with their own gear preferences and attack styles which give additional depth to the overall gameplay experience. Characters also share resources and can be used in the two player co-op system, letting two players work together to overcome the challenges of the dungeon
There is one issue in combat, the boss battles are difficult and a little frustrating. Each boss has a variety of attack patterns as they get closer to death, the patterns get more intense and have the potential to kill the player suddenly. However, death is not that significant a set-back, since the dungeons themselves and the bosses are separated. If the player dies in the dungeon, they are reset back to the start, but during a boss it can be restarted from that point.
Having boss battles and dungeons separated is very useful, as the player is able to return to the home base, which has a selection of facilities that the player can use. These include a store where upgrades can be bought, a weapon shop to sell unwanted gear and a blacksmith where gear can be upgraded using resources collected in dungeons. There are more features in the village that can be accessed, but I feel they should be discovered firsthand.
I have just scratched the surface of this title, as there are many nuances and quirks of Labyrinth Legend that I feel should be experienced blind. So with the core aspects of the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other elements of the experience, starting with the controls.
Controls – the controls for this release are reactive and work fantastically, with simple inputs that work very well with the top-down view. All of the inputs for attacks are tied to the front of the controller with two buttons for standard attacks and the others for specials. The character skill and potion buttons are tied to the front shoulders and movement to the thumbsticks. It may feel like there is some minor input lag when many enemies attack the player, but this dissipates when learning timings different features.
Difficulty – there is a moderate difficulty curve to this release, with three options when starting the game. The difficulty options are Casual for an easier gameplay experience, Normal for the intended challenge and Veteran for a more intense challenge that pushes the player more. The normal option is a good starting point, but it does have its flaws, as the boss battles can be very difficult, making the need to grind and level-up for better gear important.
Presentation – this title uses a retro styled pixel art presentation that is reminiscent of titles like Beyond Oasis, with a top down perspective that lets the player have a wide view of the area. The animations are smooth and fluid with excellent details on sprites, however, when there is a lot on screen it can be difficult to see attack indicators. The music for this title is a delight to listen to, with compositions that really enhance the experience of the dungeons and boss battles, building atmosphere during play.
Final Thoughts – I had a great time playing Labyrinth Legend. The challenge is tough but has a rewarding gameplay loop, which can be very satisfying when beating a boss that has been kicking your ass. The boss battles may be frustrating for others, since they can be punishing but once the patterns are learned it is much more achievable. Another nice touch to this release is the multiplayer component, where two people can work together to overcome the challenges of the labyrinth.
I have no issue recommending this title to players, as it is a well-polished, albeit difficult experience but it has a lot of depth that can pull the player in and allow them to try different things. The sprite work is fantastic, the enemies are diverse and the boss battles can be quite the spectacle to behold. There is a bit of time investment required to get the most out of this title, but I believe that it is worth that for the amount of satisfaction that can be achieved.
In the end, I give Labyrinth Legend a final score of 4/5. This top-down action RPG is a real challenge that is both fun and satisfying to play, the intricate sprite work and the depth of gameplay makes for an experience that can be worth the time investment. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can find a link to the game below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)