Deep Labyrinth - Reader Retroview  

Get Lost
by JuMeSyn

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Less than 20 Hours
+ Unusual setting & story
+ Creative use of DS abilities
- Few environments
- Inconsistent challenges
- Temperamental magic system
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   The idea of an RPG on a cell phone is not one that appeals greatly to me, but my tastes and the Japanese market's tastes do not march concurrently all the time. Deep Labyrinth's origins are on Japanese cell phones and show quite prominently when one plays the game. This is a game intended to be played in very quick spurts thanks to its repetitive nature, but its DS incarnation also requires a lot of memorization to vex players. Interesting though it manages to be from time to time, Deep Labyrinth's irritations outweigh player interest.

   Deep Labyrinth contains two stories. The first finds a boy named Shawn on vacation with his parents and his dog, Ace. A spooky house is nearby when their car blows a tire, and Shawn's parents enter it without returning. Shawn and Ace commence a search and are sucked into another world, a world in which the memories of people are sorted and disposed of by some anthropomorphic critters. Shawn finds it necessary to explore this world in order to reunite with his parents, and doing this requires him to engage in combat with the less pleasant creatures inhabiting the memory world. The second, unconnected, story involves exploring a mysterious maze and seeking out a girl in a crystal. Atlus's translation is top-notch and the anthropomorphic creatures of this world are usually worth talking to just for their well-written soliloquies.

This is supposedly a mouse.  Looks more like Snagglepuss to me. This is supposedly a mouse. Looks more like Snagglepuss to me.

   The mechanics of exploration are the same in both modes and heavily reliant on the touch screen. MOvement is in a first-person 3D perspective and controlled by the D-pad, which is not always ideal for 3D movement. There are four different icons on the right side of the touch screen, each corresponding to a different method of interaction. Most of the time the player will be moving around with a sword visible, and by touching the screen when close to an enemy the sword will swing repeatedly at the enemy. There is a lock-on feature which makes tracking enemies much easier, but if a second enemy is onscreen the lock-on feature will become quite irritating in its ability to not let the player see exactly what other opponents are doing. A tap on the second icon will put the sword away and transpose a clear grid onto the touch screen, used for casting magic (more on this later). The third icon will raise a shield for a moment, after which the sword will return. The shield raises defense but it is far easier to maneuver around enemies instead of defending their attacks. The fourth icon brings up the five items currently in the player's pocket, and incidentally the only items that can be used when an enemy is close. Placing items into the pocket for battle use is a process that requires far more time than it should. Also, the player must become proficient at either using magic or items to heal during fights because combat is in real time. Killing an enemy nets experience for both the character and his weapon, with items frequently awarded also. No money is awarded thanks to the lack of any stores or means of exchange. Enough experience results in a level-up with attendant statistic increases.

   The casting of magic in Deep Labyrinth requires the player to trace symbols onto the touch screen via the aforementioned grid. This is mandatory, as numerous doors will only open with the correct spell casting. The idea is interesting, but its execution not so great thanks to the need for excessive memorization and the recognition by the game of correct icon traces being haphazard. The recognition that the player has cast the spell correctly matters when one is trying to cast something quickly, yet is unable to make it work thanks to an iffy detection. While the game does store all spell symbols in the menus, the symbol is never onscreen when the player is trying to cast thanks to the magic grid taking up all the available touch screen and the top screen being devoted to a map. Thus players without good memories will be very frustrated. After accounting for this irritation, the system is still wonky thanks to the great difficulty in targeting enemies with most spells thanks to some difficulty in precision positioning.

He doesn He doesn't say "None shall pass" or lose his limbs, but this is a Black Knight.

   Precision positioning is not usually an issue in Deep Labyrinth, but anytime it is the player will wish the game enabled slightly better degrees of movement. Getting stuck on a corner will happen to every player and turning around rapidly is a chore. Simply attacking is easy enough, but repeatedly tapping the stylus onto the touch screen gets boring. The aforementioned inventory management is most vexing, for even when out of battle the player needs to confirm that each item is going to be used via multiple stages of acceptance that must be input every time. For several puzzles requiring the stylus be used to maneuver blocks around its control is remarkably loose, as well. The infrequent uses of the microphone are also subject to inconsistency, with long exhalations usually being the best way to go.

   Deep Labyrinth at least possesses some pleasant music to accompany its wanderings. The tracks are a bit too short and they are far too few, but the composition quality is fine. Sound effects are adequate also. Deep Labyrinth's visuals are a mixed bad: while they look reminiscent of the Nintendo 64 on a good day, they get repetitive very quickly and force player navigation by the map on the top screen instead of by landmarks. The game does possess a sight seen in no other game I can recall, that of a lavender platypus being the administrator of save points.

   Eight hours should suffice for players to complete the first portion of Deep Labyrinth. Though aggravating in parts, the presence of save points in every room ameliorates most frustration and makes the challenge manageable. This is definitely not so for the second story, which I did not proceed very far into before becoming very unhappy with. In a game with a party of one, enemies possessing instant death spells are very dangerous. There are a couple of optional parts in the first story but nothing enormous.

   Deep Labyrinth exhibits some interesting ideas, but proves more laborious than enjoyable to play. Perhaps its roots in a cell phone game are showing too obviously; what must have been entertainingly diverting for quick bursts on a device that is not intended primarily as a gaming console proves less pleasant on something that is designed solely for games. Its use of the DS's unique abilities proves interesting for a time, but is too repetitive to enjoy for very long. Interesting though Deep Labyrinth is, an extended play session with it is not recommended.

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