Title: Last Labyrinth
Developer: AMATA K.K.
Release Date: November 13, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: AMATA K.K.
I don’t find myself dusting off my PlayStation VR unit too often, but one look at the AMATA K.K.-developed Last Labyrinth had me eager to uncover its mysteries. I went into this game with very little knowledge and I think that’s the best way to experience it. If you don’t need to know anything more, then I suggest you not read too much into it and just play it. However, for those who need a bit more convincing, I’m here to review what I believe is the best VR game of 2019.
Like most puzzle games, the narrative of Last Labyrinth is told through unconventional means. Throughout the game, you begin to piece together the events and how everything is connected, but it does take an open mind. Often times, I believed I had an understanding of what was going on, but then the story threw a slight curveball at me. Basically, it’s up to interpretation, but you should have a small grasp on how this mess all started.
Players assume the role of a wheelchair-bound person in handcuffs. Although you can’t speak, you have a laser pointer tool in your hand. This is used to point at things, which wouldn’t be very helpful if you were alone. Luckily for you, a young strang girl named Katia. Using the pointer, it’s possible to guide her through different rooms and whatever lies ahead. Strangely enough, I should mention that you and Katia will die many times on your adventure together, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
The story in Last Labyrinth is told through its puzzles. Yes, this is a puzzle game. You travel to a room and are locked in until you solve a puzzle. I feel that the first ending of the game is a total facade for what lies ahead as the puzzles begin easy and straightforward, to the point of feeling almost too casual. However, that all changes once you enter the second part of the game.
Upon entering a room, the door is locked behind you and you’re faced with a room full of interactable objects and not a clue in sight. The lack of direction is a part of the games overall appeal, I mean, I’m supposed to feel disoriented in the adventure and that’s exactly how I feel. In the event that you succeed, you are greeted with a nice cutscene on a cliff with Katia. However, if you die, well, then you have to watch Katia die right before you join her.
These death scenes are gruesome and intimidating. You don’t want to lose a puzzle because you don’t want to have to deal with watching someone you care about die. I loved the game for providing that anxious feeling, but that does turn into frustration later on in the game. You see, puzzles become painfully difficult the further you get into the story. While there is a large variety of them, I was often stuck trying to decipher the cryptical clues placed in the rooms. Katia doesn’t really help in this regard as she waits patiently for you to figure it out and tell her what to do. Thankfully, the game does tell you when you’ve gotten it right with a green light above the door, so you do know if you are going to die or not.
While puzzle designs are challenging, the environments and set pieces created in this world are amazing. The clear ways the developers took classic puzzle elements and tied them to the theme of death was brilliant to experience. Kaita’s movements and reaction time were fast and never frustrating as she navigates through some pretty complex rooms. The sound design also gets it right with pleasant remakes from Kaita along with her screams as she meets her end. I will say that a few puzzles cannot be solved using only your head and might require you to remove the VR unit and grab a pen and paper. I’m looking at you weight puzzle.
Last Labyrinth leaves a lot up to the player in terms of choice and lets them choose how they wish to take on the puzzles. The player’s character is mysterious as you sit in your wheelchair, but questions emerge as to why you are in handcuffs in the first place. The game teases you mirrors and objects that just don’t belong as you piece together how this all came to be.
Last Labyrinth does some amazing things with VR. The way it tells a story through themes of death had me eager to press on through this nightmare of a game. Instructing Katia came naturally, but I do wish I could understand her thoughts about some of the later puzzles. This could have saved me a lot of frustration in the later parts where I’m staring at a room for 30 minutes doing everything I can to not die.
I rarely come out of VR experiences with a positive outlook, but if more games take unique approaches to this style of storytelling, then sign me up. The developers took a chance on bringing players through some dark themes and I was hooked for the entire journey.
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