Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective
It’s difficult to describe Labyrinth City simply because it’s a masterpiece and games like that should be experienced personally rather than read about. Each scene from Labyrinth City is a rich and colorful world in itself, vibrant and full of energy, a children’s book gorgeously made alive by the talented developers and graphic designers of Darjeeling.
At its core, Labyrinth City is a collection of 10 levels, each of them representing a maze. You take the role of the detective Pierre and together with your sidekick Carmen, you chase after Mister X who stole an important artifact that can create these mazes of people, and who uses it in an attempt to slow you down and escape from your grasp. The corridors and paths exist among crowds of people but the arrangement seems so natural, that you’d find yourself often wondering if you can pass through a group of characters or not. The game thus turns into an exploration adventure, in which you try to reach every corner possible. To keep things entertaining, there are dialogues with various characters, sometimes puzzles, and a lot of interactive objects. Pretty much like in Where’s Waldo games, almost everything is alive and reacts to your clicks, and it’s pure joy to trigger all these responses.
Since Labyrinth City’s gameplay relies heavily on exploration, collectibles are a must. Each level has 10-11 collectibles of different types. These are usually laid out on the not-so-obvious paths, but most often easily visible from afar (though not as easily reachable). Aside from this, there are several recurring characters that you’ll have to find, and many many Easter eggs. Achievements are rewarded not only for finding all collectibles or special people / completing all levels, but also for interacting with some specific objects in the game world.
The levels are split into 5-7 stages each and there are NPCs that guide you on the right path, either by showing you the correct direction to go, or giving you the next objective – reaching a specific area / NPC. There is no map available though, no top-view and no hints, so you’ll have to base yourself on your sense of direction and on remembering where you already went. The levels often have multiple floors and the mazes are not placed only horizontally, but also vertically. Reaching a top level can also mean taking a longer path by going in some other area first. Thus there’s a strong escher-esque component to the level design, with contorted paths, stairs, or even access ways hidden behind buildings.
Each of these levels is truly a work of art, not only in how the paths are designed, but also in how elaborately they are conceived. There are likely hundreds of individual characters per level, each of them having unique animations, positions, clothing and other details. They all move independently of each other, have different personalities etc. It’s a miniature world laid down at your feet, waiting for you to discover all its secrets.
Because of the sheer amount of meticulous work put into creating such an intricate universe, I strongly feel that Labyrinth City is totally worth the price. Mazes can get frustrating sometimes, but not in Labyrinth City – it’s a very fun and relaxed game but also versatile: you can enjoy it alone as well as with your family / children.
Feel free to also check out the illustrated children’s book that the game is based on, Hiro Kamigaki’s “Pierre the Maze Detective: The Search for the Stolen Maze Stone”.