I’ve been getting emails about the development of “Lapis x Labyrinth” for years now. Nippon Icchi Software have been hard at work trying to make a special game, and it’s gone through some iterations, name-changes and a recent delay in the European PSN store. I’m happy to report, however, that they’ve created something really fun and special, so let’s walk through it.
There’s not much in terms of story here, so it’s not really worth going in too deep, but here’s the gist: you’re an adventurer, and it turns out, there’s not many left. A town that used to be alive and buzzing, is now basically a ghost-town. It’s up to you to bring the town back to its former glory… through adventuring! For this, you’ll recruit up to 4 party members from what’s on offer at the Guild, accept a quest and enter the dungeon. That’s it in terms of the premise, so let’s move to the nitty-gritty.
Each party member has a class, which determines the type of attack and weapons they’re able to use. One useful thing is that you can choose your class but change it later without penalty. This is particularly useful if a dungeon run nets you a new high-level weapon for a class you don’t currently have within your party: simply change the class of an existing party member, and equip the new goodies. Done!
The party has a leader, who is at the bottom of a totem comprised of all your party members. They are the ones dealing the main attacks, though there are combos and special orders which can be delivered by the other party members. You can jump as many times as there are members in your party, so a full party will net you 4 jumps. This is necessary to traverse some dungeons, so be sure to keep your party topped up.
The RPG elements are plentiful and loot-iful: there are drops everywhere and you get better and better loot depending on how well you do, and the type of drops that you get. It’s really a deep level, though it never gets confusing for somewhat experienced RPG gamers. The tutorials are nothing more than text screens, but they get the job done. After that, it’s all about the lootin’ and the gearin’ up. You got traders to trade in your unused stuff, and a place to buy medicinal items. Hell yes.
Combat is where it’s at with “Lapis x Labyrinth”, and the game doesn’t disappoint. It’s a hectic, mostly button-mashing (at least at first) chaos fest from the get-go, and I love it for that. The HUD is a little cluttered, particularly in handheld mode, but you don’t really need to look at it much: you kill the baddies, engage the portals, reach the end of a floor, teleport to the boss level, beat the boss, get the loot, get a new quest, and go at it all over again. There’s not much that’s new in the gameplay here, but the combination is fresh, and in short bursts in particular, tremendously fun.
Lastly, the presentation is drop-dead gorgeous. The game does suffer the occasional slow downs and frame-drops (particularly in handheld mode), but there’s just so much going on on the screen sometimes (particularly in FEVER mode, which activates an “all hell breaks loose” situation for 20 seconds where you collect candy by making everything explode) that you can hardly blame it for that. It also doesn’t affect gameplay, so this time, I’m OK with it. The graphics are beautiful, as are the animations (so.many.animations). The voice acting isn’t as plentiful as I’d like, but what’s there sounds fantastic. The music is incredible.
As you can tell, I’m 100% sold on “Lapis x Labyrinth”. You can tell from a mile away that this game is a labor of love, and that X factor is impossible to replicate in any other way. The fresh mix of action-platforming and RPG elements make for a loot-fest that feels great, especially in short bursts, and the loop is as addicting as ever. The presentation is beautiful, if a tiny bit hampered by frame-drops and slowdowns. Overall, however, this is a great, great game, that’s easy to pick up for mostly anyone, and that will bring many hours of joy to those who are willing to give it a chance. I’m a fan. You should definitely check it out.