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JadeDragon's game reviews and playing tips: Nintendo DS games

Deep Labyrinth

Reviewed April 2007 by Edwin Kee

Publisher: Atlus Software/Marvelous Interactive 
Developer: Interactive Brains 
Release Date: August 2006
ESRB: “E” for Everyone 10+
Genre: RPG
Price: $29.99

Deep Labyrinth is touted to be the first 3D first-person RPG to appear on the Nintendo DS, but how does it fare? Before we delve any deeper into issues of game mechanics and the rest, let me refresh you on what Deep Labyrinth is all about. The game introduces the protagonist via full motion video - a boy who is traveling through the countryside along with his parents and dog, when their vehicle stops due to a busted tire. As usual, the car just so happens to fail beside a spooky looking mansion. Everybody but the boy disappears, and he gathers enough guts to walk into the mansion looking for his dog (and parents, of course). Much to his surprise (and not ours), the castle is actually a portal to another world - one where human memories are kept. His curiosity got the better of him, and naturally he jumps straight into the portal. This is where the video ends and the game begins.

Entering the strange new world, your view automatically changes to that of a first person perspective. As you stumble across some helpful characters (a talking platypus – now that's original), you start to get the hang of the game. The initial level pits you against some easy enemies as they require just a few hacks and slashes before vanquishing. You won’t have much a learning curve, I would say after 15 minutes you've pretty much picked up everything you need to know in order to survive all that Deep Labyrinth can throw at you.

There are two parts to this game, and while the first chapter consists of the hack and slash formula, the second chapter resembles the original version found on Japanese cell phones. This version brings forward the idea that you have been transported into your very own cell phone, only to be skewered by a skeleton's sword. Somehow, you survive the experience and have to fight your way through this prison.

Gameplay

Like every good RPG, dungeon crawling is part and parcel of the package. Unfortunately, that comprises of most of Deep Labyrinth. You won't find yourself doing much other than moving from room to room, hacking and slashing your way through monster after monster. We know you can get RSI after spending too much time on Diablo II, but at least Diablo II had some sort of engaging storyline and great atmosphere - the gameplay was utterly fun. The same cannot be said of Deep Labyrinth, sadly.

The combat system is quite simple - all you need to do is tap the touch screen and your character will swing the sword. Dragging the stylus results in the direction of the swing, and it doesn't really make any difference in terms of damage on how you swing your weapon, so feel free to hack at a monster in any fashion that suits you. In addition to the physical weapons, you also have the option of throwing some magic spells around (if not it won't even qualify as an RPG, would it?). You can cast spells by drawing specific shapes on a grid. And the spell casting can stand a lot of improvements. First off, the targeting scheme doesn’t work very well. Needless to say, since the magic spells are range weapons, a smooth and fluid targeting system is a must. Unfortunately Deep Labyrinth doesn’t have a good targeting system: as you first have to line up your shot with the D-pad (easier said than done) and then cast the spell. While you are busy with these tasks, the enemy has already moved away from your original target. Even when you fast and especially lucky enough to get everything in place, a slightest off center movement will result in the spell whizzing past by the target.

There are also issues with clipping, and your character will get stuck around corners and even blocked by invisible barriers. This is especially frustrating in any game, as you would waste mana casting spells that hit an invisible wall despite having a clear line of view. Somehow, the bug works only one way - enemies can still hurt you. I also wouldn't recommend using a shield at all - it doesn't really do much when it comes to protecting your derriere, and it would be better to just mow down the enemy with brute force.

Controls

As mentioned earlier, you control your character's movement with the D-pad, while tapping the screen will enable you to sidestep. This makes avoiding projectile-based spells easier, but sometimes during the thick of the action you will sidestep automatically instead of giving the enemy a good slash of the sword. The game feels rushed out as there are still plenty of flaws in the magic system which includes the inconsistent pattern recognition and toggling between spell casting and physical weapons.

Graphics

You won't be able to get much out of the DS when it comes to a first person perspective, but I've definitely seen better graphics. Take Metroid Hunters for example, the environment within that game is so much more animated and engaging, and all the worlds in there are so much different when compared to that in Deep Labyrinth. Textures and graphics are used over and over, you sometimes wonder whether you're going in circles as the same textures greet you in so many dungeons.

There is not much imagination when it comes to the bestiary, as most monsters are just palette-swapped. One good thing about the game's engine is there is virtually no lag throughout the game. This is essential for any first person game, and Deep Labyrinth passes this test beautifully.

Sound

With Yasunori Mitsuda at the helm for audio, you can expect the Celtic-inspired tunes are top notch. They aren't exactly memorable like those background ditties found on Nintendo's first party titles, but they definitely help the movement of the game along. As for sound effects, don't set your expectations too high. You won't find any truly new sound effects in Deep Labyrinth, while the voice acting is absolutely wooden, putting a thousand year old sequoia to shame.

Conclusion

The game is a rental at best. Sure, it is an RPG and provides a solid 8 hours or more of gaming and music is respectable, but you can find better titles on Nintendo DS systems than Deep Labyrinth. Much of the grievances when playing the game are related to the control scheme. In an RPG you’d much rather fighting the enemy than the game controls. You will need even more patience for the repetitive dungeons and graphic glitches.

Tips & Tricks:

  • If you find yourself stuck at doors, blow at the microphone, tap on it with the stylus, or just say “Open Sesame”
  • Covered spellstones sometimes require you to blow the dust off or a vigorous “scratching” of the stylus
  • Remember to save the following items for use later in the game – Brass key, Rainbow key, and Juicy Bone

 

 

Screen shots:

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Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):

Graphics

Although the game engine does not lag, the uninspired graphics and recycling of sprites and textures proved to be the game's undoing. You will need to have a good memory (if you don't I suggest getting some pen and paper to map out your way) if you're going to get through mazes in a jiffy. Enemies aren't the most creatively designed ones around, and the fact that different colors of the same sprite denote different monsters show how much thought the designers put into composing a bestiary.

Sound

Despite the talented Yasunori Mitsuda at the helm, you won't get many memorable pieces out of this game. Mr. Mitsuda has done just enough for you to trudge through all levels but his talent only goes to far. It won’t make up for the lack of good sound effects and voice acting.

Fun Meter

The gameplay itself follows the traditional RPG path. If you are looking for a fix for this type of game, give Deep Labyrinth a try. You might still enjoy the ride if you stick to melee weapons and just plow through. Don’t expect to have too much fun if you are a fan of spellcasters.

Addictivity

It’s safe to say that Deep Labyrinth is a rent title and not one for keeps as the repetitive dungeon crawling leads to many similar looking levels. The game doesn’t have more incentive or side quests for you to go back and play it more times. But if you are in for a 7-8 hour long RPG adventure, this game does offer that much.

Total Score= 3 Dragons, 60%



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