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Review

Review: Lapis x Labyrinth

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Lapis x Laby­rinth fol­lows Pen­ny Pun­ching Princess and The Princess Gui­de as the next Nip­pon Ichi Soft­ware tit­le to offer cute­sy but other­wi­se sim­plistic game­play and cha­rac­ters. If you’re fami­li­ar with eit­her of tho­se tit­les it should come as no sur­pri­se that this is yet ano­t­her game that offers a few hours of fun but doesn’t have enough to keep your inte­rest bey­ond that.

If you’re loo­king for a grand sto­ry with memo­r­able cha­rac­ters, you’ve come to the wrong place. You’re a group of adven­tu­rers that arri­ve in a deso­la­te town loo­king for trea­su­res that are said to hide below it. The back­sto­ry for your adven­tures in Lapis x Laby­rinth is bare­bo­nes and the sto­ry never tri­es to beco­me anything more than a quick jus­ti­fi­ca­ti­on for your forays into the titu­lar laby­rinth. It’s clear that this game does not want to focus on the over­all set­ting which is fine, but it would have been nice to have more than 10 minu­tes of sto­ry for the ent­i­re­ty of the jour­ney.

Craw­ling the dun­ge­ons under­ne­ath the town is a simp­le task. Your par­ty is made up of 4 cha­rac­ters, who are sta­cked on top of each other with the bot­tom-most mem­ber being the one that is con­trol­led. Each par­ty mem­ber can be one of 8 clas­ses, each with its own set of basic attacks and skills. Attacks are very simp­le to pull off, using a direc­tio­n­al sys­tem simi­lar to the Super Smash Bros. series, and each class has a dif­fe­rent set of skills to use. You don’t real­ly need to think about cor­rect par­ty com­po­si­ti­ons eit­her; As long as you have 4 par­ty mem­bers, you’ll be able to take on pret­ty much all con­tent in the game. This does mean that, while you can expe­ri­ment with dif­fe­rent clas­ses, there’s litt­le rea­son to care about what par­ty mem­bers you choo­se asi­de from the main one you want to con­trol for most of the game.

After picking a mis­si­on from the quest board, you’ll be tas­ked with taking on a hand­ful of floors in an area befo­re facing a boss mons­ter. To clear a floor you must break crystals that are scat­te­red around, usual­ly guar­ded by a group of mons­ters, and make it to the exit por­tal. Dispatching enemies is rare­ly dif­fi­cult, usual­ly only requi­ring one or two skills befo­re moving onto the next group, though it does emu­la­te the charm that War­ri­ors games have of let­ting you des­troy hund­reds of oppon­ents with ease. Thro­wing sta­cked cha­rac­ters to call in assist attacks also adds to the mad­ness on screen and does at least break up the but­ton mashing from time to time. Defea­ting enough enemies and collec­ting money will activa­te fever time, gran­ting invin­ci­bi­li­ty and mas­si­ve amount of gems that explo­de out of enemies when you attack them. The ener­ge­tic the­me of this mode com­bi­ned with the visu­al spec­ta­cle leads to some fun moments, though with how fre­quent­ly you’ll enter this mode it stops being exci­ting after a few hours.

Des­troy­ing enemies not only gives you access to money and new equip­ment, but it also leads to some rather crow­ded encoun­ters when the­re are a lot of spri­tes on screen at once. Lapis x Labyrinth’s artstyle is plea­sing some of the time, thanks to some cute cha­rac­ter spri­tes and flas­hy attacks. But the dun­ge­on its­elf is bland, being made of a few types of plat­forms and blocks that are pla­ced into various basic lay­outs. The the­mes of the dun­ge­ons are not par­ti­cu­lar­ly varied eit­her, often see­ming like litt­le more than a reco­lour with a dif­fe­rent back­ground. The new music for each area does at least give them more of an iden­ti­ty, but even then it can be hard to feel like you’ve made much pro­gress when the floors start to blend tog­e­ther visual­ly. The Switch ver­si­on of Lapis x Laby­rinth also suf­fers from a few frame­ra­te issu­es. As men­tio­ned ear­lier this game has some nice spri­tes and an over­all colour­ful style, but once you’re figh­t­ing lar­ger groups of enemies, espe­ci­al­ly during fever time, the frame­ra­te will often slow to a crawl. Play­ing in docked mode makes the­se drops less fre­quent, but it’s still a noti­ce­ab­le pro­blem even in the ear­lier levels of the game.

And… that’s it. After com­ple­ting a few mis­si­ons, you will have seen the vast majo­ri­ty of con­tent in Lapis x Laby­rinth. The­re are no unlock­able moves, and most enemies are just re-colou­red and re-skin­ned. Even the floor lay­outs end up being repeated con­stant­ly, and the rather samey envi­ron­ment the­mes do litt­le to impro­ve the con­stant repe­ti­ti­on. It’s still fun to blast through waves of enemies while collec­ting a varie­ty of loot, but by the end of the short main sto­ry the charm of the sim­plistic com­bat had worn thin. The post-game mis­si­ons do ramp up the dif­fi­cul­ty con­si­der­a­b­ly, but wit­hout any actu­al new con­tent to dis­co­ver the­re is litt­le rea­son to try the­se unless you real­ly enjoy the game­play.

This lack of depth is real­ly dri­ven home by the faci­li­ties that are unlo­cked as you clear each area of the laby­rinth. Even­tual­ly you can upgrade not only the equip­ment you’re using but the cha­rac­ters them­sel­ves as well, both through indi­vi­du­al stat increa­ses and items that impro­ve your ent­i­re party’s abi­li­ties. This is fine on paper, but in rea­li­ty none of the­se sys­tems offer anything in the way of inte­res­ting cus­to­mi­za­ti­on, sin­ce it’s always clear which upgrades you should go for and the rest can be igno­red. For examp­le, why would you ever upgrade dama­ge to a spe­ci­fic ene­my types when you can just upgrade your base dama­ge ins­tead. The­re are a lot of dif­fe­rent stats and effec­ts tied to wea­pons, it’s just unfor­tu­n­a­te that most of them are bland or sim­ply useless.

Conclusion

Lapis x Laby­rinth isn’t a bad game, it’s just very sim­plistic and has a hard time kee­ping your inte­rest for the 10+ hours requi­red to beat it. If this was a cheap £10 or so release, then it wouldn’t be too hard to recom­mend this to someo­ne loo­king for a simp­le action game that can be play­ed for a few minu­tes at a time. But at its cur­rent asking pri­ce, the­re is litt­le rea­son to pick this up over the many other more inte­res­ting, and more sub­stan­ti­al, releases this year.

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