Lapis Labyrinth is extremely cute. It has the cutest adventurer party I’ve ever seen, the cutest stack of characters, the cutest villagers, and the cutest death and destruction I’ve ever rained down upon my foes.
Lapis Labyrinth is a tale of adventurers, looking to discover the golden tree, a legendary tree said to be at the center of a large labyrinth that no one has been able to reach the center of. How they knew about the tree then is a mystery to me, but the town that acts as a base for adventurers has dwindled in recent years, as less and less adventurers are looking for the tree. Fortunately for the town, your group of adventurers have heard the legends and come to the town to explore the labyrinth. Hopefully, this will increase the number of people coming to the town in order to revitalize the failing economy! That and there are monsters to beat up.
The gameplay of Lapis Labyrinth is pretty up-front about what it has to offer. You take a stack, quite literally, of up to four adventurers into the labyrinth in order to fight monsters, collect treasure, and discover what lies at the end of the great labyrinth. A lot of the tools are available to you right off the bat, as the majority of gameplay revolves around getting your stack of adventurers through the labyrinth. In your stack, the character on the bottom acts as the Leader, and will be in charge of the primary attacking. The adventurers “above” the leader not only combine their stats to affect the leaders, but can also be sent off to perform a special move as well, provided you have enough “charge” for it. You can also cycle between characters acting as the leader during labyrinth runs, so feel free to stack your favorite units so you can alternate between them.
One thing you’ll probably notice as soon as you set foot in the tutorial is the ridiculous amount of “bars” and “gauges” on screen. There’s, like, five or six of them, and it can be really overwhelming at first. Fortunately, half of them are there mostly just for display, and don’t need to be watched constantly, but it can still get a little confusing at times. So what do they all do, you might ask? Well, most of them are related to combat. While your Leader can attack using standard combo moves, you also have a “skill” available, that takes action points to use. These come back rather quickly over a short period of time. Then there’s the EX gauge, which will allow you to send all your stacked adventurers to attack the on-screen enemies. Then there’s the party level, which is reset upon re-entering the labyrinth, and acts as your average adventurer level.
By killing monsters, this will go up and your characters will “level up” for the duration of your dungeon run. Then there’s the fever gauge, which will give you a period of invincibility when full where you can go slap up all the enemies without worrying about being hit. If you do get hit however, that will reset the treasure gauge, which goes up as you beat baddies and will reset when taking a hit. The higher this is, the better loot you get. Like I said, that’s a lot of gauges and bars, isn’t it? There’s also a timer, health bar, and “gem” bar. While the health bar should be rather self-explanatory, the timer and “gem” bar are related to labyrinth exploration.
The Labyrinth that you will be exploring essentially works in “stratums”. Every batch of areas has a recommended level, not that I’m certain what that’s particularly referencing, as well as a “theme” for the area you’re going through. As an example, the first stratum is a forest. Your goal is to make it through each floor of the labyrinth segment you’ve been tasked to explore, beat the boss at the end, and return with as much treasure as you can carry! Exploring the floors is actually a really interesting experience.
You have a 2-D platforming style area to explore, with a bunch of little warp pads and one big warp pad that will bring you to the next floor. There are a bunch of purple crystals around the stage, and destroying them will unlock the warp to the next floor, or give you a treasure bonus if you get a lot. Be careful though, as you only have 5 minutes per floor. If you take longer than 5 minutes, a giant phantom will appear and chase you. And let me tell you, it is REALLY hard to avoid. If it touches you, you get booted out of the labyrinth and lose your treasure, which is also what happens if you fail the quest you’re on.
Exploring the labyrinth is also really fun, as there are a bunch of destructible blocks and puzzles, treasure chests galore to collect, enemies to beat up, and a really fun movement system. You have as many jumps as you do adventurers, each one adding another jump, and “coming off” as you use them as a stepping stone to reach higher heights. Not only is this really handy mobility wise, but it feels really fun to be jumping around all over the place. You have to pay attention though, because if a head gets too far away from your stack, or gets knocked off by a powerful blow from a monster, that head will take damage from the ambient miasma in the labyrinth.
While you might not notice this due to the fact that each adventurer has their own health bar, keep in mind that if an adventurer “dies”, or gets left behind on a floor, they won’t be available for the rest of the labyrinth run. While you can just move to the next unit if your Leader gets knocked out, the stack of adventurers stats are, well, “stacked”. If one is no longer able to continue, their stats get removed from your collective pool, making it more difficult to continue. Remember to always take care of your party members!
Upon beating the boss at the end of the labyrinth section you’re exploring, you will be given a number of keys and chests based on how well you did, and how lucky you are respectively. Chests have different rarity values, with higher rarity needing more keys to open. Unfortunately, rarity generally means “quality”, and not “rank”. For example, you can have a legendary “quality” wooden stick that does 4 damage and has a chance to poison on hit and slightly boosts health pool, or you can have a common “quality” cosmic-beast-slayer that does 1200 damage, but has no added skills. Probably aren’t going to be using that stick. It’s important to weigh what you want when considering spending less keys for more gear, or spending more keys on “better” gear and hoping it’s of a higher base status.
Once you’ve padded your collection out a little, you can equip your gear on your adventurers. Each class has their own traits, weapons, and fighting styles, which are clearly visible in Labyrinth delves, but are also reflected in their gear. For instance, the maid class uses pots and pans as weapons, and to my recollection, other characters aren’t able to use the same weapon types. There is some overlap in defensive gear though. You have a set amount of “party equip points”, and your total “equip value” of your gear can’t exceed that number.
You can increase that value later in the game however, but it still means you have to balance having a range of mediocre gear for all your units, or a few really powerful pieces for just one or two adventurers. Gear also comes with skills as well, which may tip your favor one way or the other. For instance, my personal favorite I believe was called “Lunar”, which sends a sort of magenta spinning cross at your enemies. Not super damaging, but good for crowd control.
Overall, despite how complicated Lapis Labyrinth can seem at the beginning, it’s pretty basic in what it does. You go dungeon dive, bring back better gear, go to harder areas, all to revitalize a town. Stage runs are rather short, generally speaking, and a lot of the areas will get that “similar” feel to them after a while. That being said, there is a lot of variety in the floors, the combat is hectic, but fun, and the adventurers are just too damned cute.
While Lapis Labyrinth isn’t something I’d expect you to spend a day just sitting down playing, it’s fun in bursts, and the stratum transitions happen right around the time you could go for a change in scenery. With solid music, fun gameplay, and the cutest stack I’ve ever seen, give Lapis Labyrinth a shot if you’re in the mood for a hectic platforming dungeon delve!Score: 7.5 / 10