Lapis X Labyrinth (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Gabriel Jones 21.05.2019

Review for Lapis X Labyrinth on Nintendo Switch

Legends tell of an enchanted forest. Deep within is a massive labyrinth filled with unimaginable dangers. Somewhere, in the furthest reaches, is a brilliant Golden Tree. If an adventurer happened to discover it, surely their wildest dreams would come true. For quite some time, heroes from every realm explored this mysterious dungeon, but they never found anything. Perhaps the Golden Tree doesn't actually exist. After all, who better to benefit from a legend than the nearby village? There's a lot of profit in feeding and supplying the labyrinth's visitors. Still, there are at least a few adventurers out there who still believe. Among them is Vivian the Hunter, and Alice the Maid. Childhood friends and rookie explorers, they're on a journey to uncover the truth. Welcome to Lapis x Labyrinth, where fortune favours the bold.

The rogue-lite is an underappreciated subgenre, at least in this critic's eyes. It contains all of the thrills of acquiring loot and slashing through hordes of monsters, but without the messy inconveniencies of perma-death or lost gear. Life is hard enough already, so why should one's moments of escapism result in more suffering? At least, that's the general theme behind by Lapis x Labyrinth. Here's something that's designed to make the player feel awesome. With as little effort as it takes to press some buttons, anyone can carve through adversity, bathe in riches, and achieve ridiculously high scores. Yes, there's something of a scoring system buried underneath all this, and we'll dig into it a bit later.

The goal isn't just to seek out the Golden Tree, but to also build an incredibly powerful squad. Rather than controlling one hero or heroine, players take command of four. There are eight classes to choose from, each specializing in a handful of talents. Shielders are beefy dudes who carry shields and swing axes. Their defensive capabilities make it easy for them to survive tough encounters. The Maid wallops nearby baddies with a frying pan, and then cooks up a tasty meal for her allies. Some might prefer to destroy everything with a massive sword, which is where the Destroyer comes in. The strength of an individual party member is determined almost entirely by their gear, so don't worry about grinding experience to keep everyone on the same level. Feel free to swap recruits around and build the perfect squad.

Now how exactly does one go about controlling four party members at once? Well… this next part isn't going to make a lot of sense, but here it goes: the leader handles all of the essential work. That means running, jumping, and attacking. Everyone else sits on top of the leader's head. With a press of the 'A' button, they can be summoned to perform a special attack. Tapping the left bumper will switch leadership duties to the next person, while the right bumper unleashes a team-up attack. Since it would be incredibly awkward to have four able-bodied heroes sitting on top of one another, only the leader has an actual body. Unless their assistance is required, everyone else is just their respective heads. Granted, it's a strange visual, but players will get used to it in no time at all.

Screenshot for Lapis X Labyrinth on Nintendo Switch

After a quick tutorial, the heroes arrive at the village. At first, there's a startling lack of amenities. Anyone expecting to trade for items or sharpen their weapons will be sorely disappointed. The only way to bring life back to this dreary hovel is to explore the labyrinth. Since this den of evil has seen many visitors in the past, a quest system has been set up. However, instead of collecting a bunch of monsters horns or finding a lost trinket, quests function more as permission slips. In other words, just because previous adventurers have made a lot of progress, it doesn't mean the player can skip ahead. They must take on every quest to show that they're capable of tackling the main bosses.

Each quest consists of multiple floors. These winding hallways are filled with the typical menagerie of killer creatures, devious traps, and wondrous treasures. Anyone versed in the ways of platformers and hack 'n' slashers will immediately get a feel for how everything works. Every floor has a time limit of five minutes. In order to unlock the exit teleporter, the squad has to find and destroy the requisite number of seals. Naturally, there are alternate routes and detours to check out, so move quickly and explore thoroughly. The heroes are fast and capable of quintuple-jumps, so getting around isn't a problem.

In almost every case, dealing with adversity is an exceedingly simple task. Unless the heroes and heroines are drastically underpowered, they'll wreck everything in a couple of hits. Even when dealing with a dozen or so beasts, the average encounter lasts seconds. While there is some satisfaction in mashing the attack button until all butts are kicked, it's not particularly stylish. Worse, an ally might get seriously hurt in the chaos. The level of difficulty leans toward the friendlier end, so minor mistakes aren't punished too harshly. However, if the leader takes a lot of damage at once, they might get knocked out of the squad. If their head isn't recovered, then there's a chance they could be lost for the entirety of the current quest.

Screenshot for Lapis X Labyrinth on Nintendo Switch

Oh, and please accept this critic's apologies for the lie in the previous paragraph. "Minor mistakes aren't punished too harshly" only applies if the player isn't hoping for rare drops or a high score. Doing damage whilst avoiding damage builds up a treasure combo. Not only does this serve as a bonus to all points earn, it also increases the likelihood of exceptional treasures. The basic copper treasure chest might contain a sword that's only good for scrap, but a rainbow-coloured chest could hold a magnificent blade, one that's loaded with great enchantments. While the scoring system can be boiled down to "don't get hit!" knowing the enemies' capabilities as well as the allies' powers requires both time and effort. Also, since battles move so quickly, a fraction of a second is usually enough of an opportunity for the enemy to strike. Try not to get distracted either. Many combos have been lost, simply by clumsily running into a projectile.

Mastering Lapis x Labyrinth is all a matter of optimization. Each of the eight heroes has a handful of special attacks, which are designed for specific situations. By holding up and pressing 'X,' the Witch will summon a tornado that hits anything directly above her. If the Bishop holds forward and hits that same button, she'll unleash a far-reaching (and devastating) stab. Since floors aren't randomized, players should memorize layouts, and use the environment whenever it's advantageous. Hitting enemies through walls or from the safety of a faraway platform are sound strategies. Crafting specialized gear that exploits weaknesses is also a good idea. Killing everything in one hit instead of a few will lead to less incurred damage.

Most importantly, spelunkers who want the optimal rewards will have to catch the FEVER. Defeated enemies will drop FEVER points. Once enough are collected, the squad becomes invincible for several seconds. Also, whether its baddies or destructible walls, anything that gets attacked will cough up scores of gems. These valuables unlock a host of FEVER gifts such as increased attack power, more gold, and other lovely goodies. It isn't uncommon for a FEVER to occur multiple times on a single floor, or during boss battles. Seeing the screen explode in shiny goodness is always a treat, and mastering this subsystem lends the game an extra layer of depth.

Screenshot for Lapis X Labyrinth on Nintendo Switch

Once the quest is completed, then it's time to head back to town and prepare for the next challenge. Since the party's experience is reset to lvl1 after the end of a quest, they'll need to be sure that their gear is up-to-date. Whenever a main boss is defeated, new facilities will unlock, including a trader, blacksmith, and dojo. Traders offer a wide selection of nice items to trade for, such as stat-boosting grimoires and crafting materials. The blacksmith is where materials are put to work, either by embedding new enchantments on armaments, or strengthening what's already available. The dojo trains heroes and heroines, boosting their parameters. These amenities can be worked with in any number of ways. Struggling players will appreciate the assistance, while veterans will focus on specific gear and squad setups to clear quests at a record-breaking pace.

This is, for all intents and purposes, the core loop of the game. How Lapis x Labyrinth sets itself apart from similar titles is in its attention to pacing. Everything, from fighting to gearing up for the next quest, happens at a refreshingly brisk pace. Players can easily get their fill of "phat loot" and powering up a squad, without having to sit through dozens of cut-scenes or several minutes' worth of load times. The later dungeons are more complex and difficult, but they never get unnecessarily convoluted or longwinded. Basically, a lot will happen in a very short period of time, and that's great. Also, it's always thrilling to catch a FEVER. The short-term and long-term rewards are compelling to strive for, while the moment-to-moment gameplay is entertaining enough to keep one's attention.

As far as complaints go, most of these can be filed under nit-picks. First off, it would have been nice to have an extra second of invulnerability after FEVER time ends. If a fireball or something similar happens to be on top of the squad, then it's tough luck. This was probably done so that players have to think a few moves ahead, but it's very easy to get caught up in the moment. In one second, the screen is covered in precious gems, in the next, the realization hits that there are projectiles everywhere. It's a constant nuisance, but an acceptable one. Less acceptable are the frame-drops that occur when large numbers of enemies are onscreen. This is especially noticeable during encounters with huge bosses. It's not a major detriment, since battles move so quickly, but still annoying. Also, forward + X special attacks don't reliably respond to sudden changes in direction. For example, if the Witch attempts to quickly throw a fireball in the opposite direction of whichever way they're going, it's not going to go where they want it to. These special moves are a little less effective than they should be, at least in a pinch.

Screenshot for Lapis X Labyrinth on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Lapis x Labyrinth is all that a one could want from a rogue-lite. Countless hours will be spent engaging in simplistic yet also compelling hack 'n' slash action. The eight playable classes offer plenty of diversity in their skillset and play-style. Forming them into a squad and maximizing their effectiveness is lots of fun. The frame-drops are regrettable, but can be alleviated somewhat by skilful play. Oh and of course you've got to love the FEVER. Why is FEVER in all-caps anyway? It's because lower-case letters can never hope to contain its awesomeness.

Developer

Nippon Ichi

Publisher

NIS America

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 31.05.2019   North America release date 31.05.2019   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

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