MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death (PS Vita) Review

By Drew Hurley 10.09.2016

Review for MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death on PS Vita

Set in a world that has stopped turning, MeiQ: Labyringth of Death tasks a group of half-naked girls on a quest to get the planet moving again and allow life to continue just a little bit longer. This turn-based, first-person dungeon crawler comes from Bad Land Games and Compile Heart, and is the second title in the "Makai Ichiban Kai" project, following on the heels of Trillion: God of Destruction. Releasing in the US on 13th September and across Europe on 16th September for PlayStation Vita and PlayStation TV, Cubed3 jumps on in to see how it shapes up.

Keeping the world spinning is no easy task, it seems. To do so, five "Machine Mages" are sent to visit four sacred towers in order to defeat the guardian at each and perform a cleansing ritual. Once all guardians are vanquished, and all towers cleansed, they must return to their central tower and turn the Planet Key to get their world moving again. Playing as one of the five mages - Estra - it's quickly evident the other mages have no intention of making this a team sport, and it's something of a competitive affair. Estra is thrust into the first tower with only a robotic Guardian to assist.

Immediately upon entering the first tower, a very Etrian Odyssey vibe is evident, as navigation is done via first-person, while a mini-map is drawn out as more and more of the tower is traversed. The towers are each worth fully exploring, with plenty of hidden passageways and treasure chests scattered throughout to reward the most meticulous explorer. There's not just treasure in the mazes of the towers, however, as each is full to the brim with random enemy encounters. Combat is, again, familiar to anyone who has played this type of game; turn-based and simple enough, utilising elemental based attacks.

Screenshot for MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death on PS Vita

Even though MeiQ starts out with just Estra and her guardian, that doesn't mean a two-person party in combat; instead, the option is to either perform an action with Estra or with the guardian. It's an interesting system that works surprisingly well. Estra has support abilities and a powerful 'attack all' spell that makes quick work of most mobs at the beginning, but taking actions as Estra means she is vulnerable to reprisal attacks, whereas taking actions with the guardian means that attacks land on the guardian instead. Similarly, Estra can still fight after the guardian is killed, yet the guardian can do nothing without its controlling mage.

As the adventure develops, the mages begin working together and the party grows to the point where it is made up of three mages and three guardians. The other mage characters are typical archetypes; in order of amount of clothes worn: Setia, the Water Mage, is the prim and proper one of the group, fully dressed in a gothic Lolita outfit - she's shy and quiet. Connie is the youngest of the group, innocent and simple-minded; she is a childlike girl who is always laughing and smiling. Maki, the Metal Mage, is the older sister/mother character, giving advice and guidance, and throughout the story her clothes can barely contain her… size. Finally, there is Flare, the Fire Mage; she's aggressive and big mouthed with a hot temper. She has 93.984% of her breasts showing, most of the time.

This is a Compile Heart game, after all, so players had to expect this sort of fan service… It's all too much for Australia, however, and readers in Australia, you will have to look into importing (check Play-Asia!) to get your hands on this one as it is currently banned Down Under. This is a little surprising, to be frank. Australia is known for its harsh game regulations and prices, but there's usually a good reason if a game is outright banned. Here there's little to justify it. Sure, the cast are wearing next to nothing and the developer felt the need to add a breathing animation to the sprites to grow and shrink their… assets… but this is no Criminal Girls or Monster Monpiece.

Screenshot for MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death on PS Vita

Each mage has their own particular spells and abilities to unlock as they increase in level and it's worth playing with party setups to see what works best. Maki has powerful healing magic, for instance, and Flare has some huge damage fire spells. Each mage can also be equipped with "Seeds," items collected from chests and enemies to increase their stats. It's not just the mages in the party who can be customised, though, as each guardian can, too. There are numerous guardians to unlock over the course of the game, and each can be equipped with custom arms and stones. The arms can either be acquired through the towers or can be crafted as the adventure progresses. There are plenty of arms, each with different elemental attacks, and they can make a big difference to battles. The stones the guardians can equip can completely alter the flow of the game, too. Later on, stones are found that allow, for example, "All Fire attacks to be performed in one turn" or "All attacks on right arm to be performed in one turn." When fully utilised, these stones can put out ridiculous amounts of damage, but they also mean battles become more tedious, watching the same animations play out again and again… and again.

Only four towers there may be, but mechanics are added to lengthen things, requiring revisiting of previous areas to progress. An obstacle in the third tower, for example, requires back-tracking to a previous tower to get an item to bring to the third tower to take back to that previous tower to open the door to a boss to defeat to get an item to open a door on the third tower…. Convoluted and horrible is being kind - it's just plain bad design. There are also "Crest" doors throughout each of the towers that can only be opened post-game, which open new areas to explore. Why not simply have these as new areas? Instead of seemingly having a forest appear in a tower...

Screenshot for MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death on PS Vita

It would be a brief and boring game - well, even more boring - if it simply consisted of just the four towers with random enemies within. To prevent this, developer has also added a shadowy group of dark mages trying to prevent the girls achieving their goal, along with some mysterious other characters - a Golden Dragon knight who seems to be a friend, and a pair of shape-shifting thieves. They make for the occasional funny moment in the story, but are ultimately quite forgettable.

MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death also suffers from a flaw common to many of this type of grindy style releases, namely the inability to balance the game. By the time the third tower is reached, it's easy to have a team of girls and guardians that will absolutely destroy any normal enemies that have the misfortune of popping up during a trek through a maze; so much so that the quick version of the controls (holding X during combat to speed up attack animations and tapping R during the action choices to repeat the previous turn's actions) becomes the norm through most dungeons, making for somewhat boring gameplay. Then a boss will appear and absolutely wreck the entire party in very short order. It's fine to have challenge during boss stages, but mobs in the area should be appropriately difficult to prepare the player or to give an interesting grinding experience while levelling up ready for the boss. This is very much the case on the final boss, who requires a good bit of grinding to be able to take on.

Screenshot for MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death on PS Vita

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death starts quite positively and is very enjoyable up until around the third or fourth tower. At this point, the combat starts to feel like a chore and there isn't anything new added to keep the adventure interesting. Even post-game is disappointing for this type of title, and it all just ends up feeling quite unsatisfying. That being said, with this type of niche title, the loyal fans will certainly enjoy it. MeiQ is one worth picking up for dungeon crawling RPGs enthusiasts out there that have exhausted all other options, but not really for many other gamers.

Developer

Compile Heart

Publisher

Idea Factory

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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