- Developer: Darjeeling
- Publisher: Pixmain
- Release Date: 15/07/2021
- Price: £10.79 / $11.99
- Review code provided by Pixmain
Introducing: Labyrinth City: Pierre The Maze Detective Review
There are a few things that most adults can relate to about their childhoods. For many, simply saying the name “Where’s Wally”, for example, will bring up multiple books and swathes of red and white stripes. For those of you stateside, I am of course referring to Waldo. As a kid I spent hours pouring over those books, not just looking for our elusive protagonist, but admiring the world in which he had been dropped into.
The other, less amusing pastime, would be completing those incredibly simply and irritating mazes on the back of restaurant kids menus. As a parent I feel the need to use this platform to inform restaurateurs that not one child has been distracted by these, ever!
The reason I digress with these tales from my, clearly traumatic, youth, is that recently I was asked to review Labyrinth City. Knowing nothing of the game until I loaded it up, I can safely say that by the end of it, you will hopefully be as intrigued as I am.
What is a Maze Detective?
So my first question on loading this up was “What is a Maze Detective and why do I want one?” Well good reader, I can tell you that Pierre is most certainly THE maze detective. Someone who can certainly help you the next time you decide to venture into that corn labyrinth. Just me?
Pierre the Maze Detective first started out as a Book. Featuring the Art of Hirofumi Kamigaki and his studio at IC4 Design. The books have now become a series all their own, with multiple entries in the main series and even spin offs that include a colouring book and sticker album! Perfect candidate for a video game then?
The premise of Labyrinth City is relatively simple. Mr. X is the villain of the piece and has stolen the Maze Stone. Had Thanos has this one, he may have had more luck against those pesky Avengers that’s for sure! The Maze stone turns any area into a labyrinth of utter chaos! Pierre’s job, therefore, is to track down Mr. X and retrieve the stone before all the world becomes just a glorified summer tourist trap.
How do you Navigate a Maze Game?
The gameplay is relatively simple, particularly when using analogue controls. You navigate Pierre through each maze, hitting dead ends until eventually you find the only path along the route. Along the way you will reach checkpoints which reveal more of the plot of that particular level. Usually this gets you closer to Mr. X’s location, but there is often a little bit of exposition to accompany it.
After each checkpoint you are shown where to go next, with a timeline appearing to show you how close to the final goal you are. Each having a picture of the character you are seeking out. As you can probably guess, identifying a specific character can be as much the puzzle as navigating the map.
The maze itself has only one route to completion, so it is safe to assume that any progress made will take you closer to the end goal. There are plenty of dead ends and loops to keep you on your toes though. But as I said earlier, with the analogue controls it is quite easy to see where alternative paths are as the movement is very restrictive.
So it’s just a Walking Simulator?
Far from it! As you traverse your chosen area, yes the goal is to find the end of the maze, but like most games, there needs to be a sense of replayability. Anyone who’s ever completed a Where’s Wally book will undoubtedly agree it’s just not the same once you have completed it. With Labyrinth City, the replay value comes in discovering secrets along the way and gathering collectibles.
Within each level there are a number of different collectible items which add replayability, especially for the completionists among you. Firstly, each level has four chests which, when discovered and opened, reveal an item relevant to the level in which it was found. There are also three stars with which to find, which are also being sought by a rather comical ninja. Finally, there are pages of Mr X’s evil plan scattered throughout the maze. These provide gorgeous little vignettes of diagrams, which at times even include awesome little pop culture references!
If collect-a-thons aren’t your thing then there is still more to uncover as you follow each and every path laid before you. Each level is full of interactive elements that it would make a trip to a children’s museum pale in comparison. Almost every path, whether wrong or right, has the ability to provide some form of entertainment.
But is it a game?
Where gameplay is concerned there isn’t a huge amount to shout home about. There are no enemies to fight, no combat mechanics and no strategy elements to consider. But, that doesn’t mean it isn’t both interactive and entertaining. Which ultimately isn’t that the primary focus of any game?
Controls are easy to pick up and simple to use. There are no real additional controls besides the movement and an “action” button, though there is the ability to also zoom out of the map and look at objectives etc should you get lost, though I never felt the need to use this. One function that I felt was lacking was a running feature. Often there are large areas of the map where you either discover the need to back track or simply to cover ground a little more quickly.
The game is a wonderful relaxing romp. Its a perfect game to unwind to or to simply experience. For those who read my article on mental health in gaming, it is a perfect game to help with grounding. Spending time looking for easter eggs, or chests / stars has meant this is already challenging Tetris for a game I play when stressed. The game makes little demands, but immerses and entertains!
Some A-MAZE-Ing Aesthetics (you knew it was coming don’t lie)
A huge feature of the game is the beautiful art used throughout. Obviously the game takes it’s art direction from the original book “Pierre the Maze Detective”, but what is stunning about the conversion to digital media is how true to the source material the game’s designers have been. Each of the 10 levels look (to someone who has only glanced at the books) as though very little has been taken away but so much has been added with the interactivity.
The additional animations are charming. With the story being told by the use of comic book style speech bubbles. In fact the whole aesthetic reminded me of watching TV shows like Madeline and reading Tintin comics. The game has minimal cutscenes where each part of the story is told in traditional panels with minor voice acting from Pierre’s assistant. Its just enough to give the game added charm without becoming a feature that demands more critique.
The art is accompanied with beautiful music. Like a lot of puzzle games, it’s hardly a popular hit that will be sung along to for years to come, but it accompanies the game well and adds to, rather than detracts from, the overall experience. The complexity of the tune increases as you work through each checkpoint also, almost as though a reward for your achievements thus far. Again a much welcome little addition.
The game is technically a little short, with each puzzle being around a half hour romp at best. The level of difficulty isn’t so much in the completion but in the method in which you complete each puzzle, creating a level of differentiation by outcome. For those who don’t like collecting marathons as a method of adding replay value may have a short, but fun experience. Considering all the collectible items and how they are presented, there is a much better reward for this than in some games that rely on this mechanic to pad out games.
I haven’t encountered any glitches or bugs while playing, but an update was applied shortly after installing the software, suggesting there may have been some improvements needed. Overall I have encountered nothing but a smooth running experience in both handheld mode and when docked. The file size is relatively small at 3GB so a perfect little addition as no physical copy has been announced yet.
This is an absolutely adorable game. There’s no other way of describing it. For people of a certain age it brings up a nostalgia whilst being an almost entirely new series. The beautifully detailed landscapes hold so many secrets that you can happily lose yourself in a play through. I thoroughly recommend this game for anyone looking for a lovely short puzzle game that gives so much while asking for so little. A real relaxation puzzler with aesthetic notes of the Madeline TV series, Tintin comics, and Where’s Wally books all rolled into one. This was an absolute pleasure to play.
Not only that… It’s made me order the books….
- Simple, yet incredibly engaging maze based puzzles
- Gorgeous landscapes with plenty of hidden easter eggs
- Plenty on offer for completionists, with a nice reward for your efforts
- Can feel a little slow in some sections of the map, a sprint function would help
- You are left wanting more, hopefully DLC will be a continuation rather than a separate title