Review: Lapis x Labyrinth – a colorful explosion of entertainment
If you want a solid, silly action game this might be it.
Back in high school, we had a drink vending machine in the cafeteria that only dispensed Snapple. As a result, all of us were drinking Snapple all the time, so we all ended up with our favorites (I liked peach).
Then I graduated, had regular access to all kinds of other drinks, and learned Snapple is 1) not great and 2) probably bad for you, given its high sugar content and lack of meaningful nutrients. I still get a bottle every once in a while, mostly for nostalgia’s sake since the taste reminds me of what it’s like to feel young again, but I know it’s not good for me so I don’t do it often.
Lapis x Labyrinth, developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by Sega, is the Snapple in this scenario. It’s the game you play on a sick day, home from school and looking to spend 14 hours straight glued to the screen, mindlessly fighting endless hordes of cartoon monsters while you hunt for better gear and get bombarded with excessive explosions of color.
The action is responsive, the reward system is just generous enough to keep you playing, and it’s fun
But that’s honestly all there is to it. It’s the kind of game I would have adored as a kid, but have limited tolerance for as an adult.
The premise is outlandish and absurd, the hallmarks of a game that knows it’s ridiculous. You pick four cartoon heroes, each with a different class and thus different stats and move sets, and then you stack them on top of each other in a ludicrous, moving tower.
Each character has a neutral, left-right, up, and down basic attack and special attack in exactly the style of Smash Bros.
Plus, you can throw the other characters in your stack for their own thrown abilities, and once a meter is charged up you can unleash a giant full-party attack that takes up the entire screen and then some.
Every hit builds up a combo meter that resets to zero if you’re struck, plus you have an ongoing fever meter that activates an invincibility and bonus treasure state when it’s full.
If it sounds like a lot, that’s because it is: There’s always something exciting happening on screen in one form or another.
All of the above are my favorite aspects of Lapis x Labyrinth because I’m truly a sucker for nitpicky action
Each character feels distinct and it only took me a few runs into the labyrinth to pick my favorites and start running with my ideal load out of four.
I like the high-mobility daggers, able to bolt through the air like lightning. The clunk of the great sword is great and it’s super satisfying when you use its down-swing to slice through half the screen in one go. I love the utility of the scythe, keeping short-range enemies at bay while tossing spinning blades at mid-range foes.
There are a bunch of different styles here and they’re all good in their own way.
On repetition, however, Lapis x Labyrinth begins to fray
The combo system emphasizes not getting hit, but there is so much going on on-screen at any given time that you can never really tell when you’re about to be struck.
Beyond that, while some characters have a blocking ability, there’s no dodge, so your primary means of not getting hit is defeating enemies before they can get close to you. My ability to maintain a combo felt more contingent on having gear powerful enough to mow through enemies than it did on my own individual skill, which is a shame because this game is relatively stingy with loot.
Since there are so many characters and each has their own weapon type, you’ll often be getting lots of loot you don’t need, faced with the decision of changing your party to take advantage of it or continuing to run your existing setup without upgrades.
For me, daggers were my mandatory primary, so it was pretty frustrating when for many runs in a row, I was either getting no daggers or getting more trash I didn’t want.
You do have some agency over treasure, however, when it comes to the end of a run. You get keys in each run and spend them at the end, choosing one of three variably rare treasure chests to open repeatedly until you run out of keys. Still, it feels like lots of RNG-based luck is involved, which makes this feel like a big ol’ Skinner Box to me.
Still, the presentation is great, the music is catchy, the colors are extravagant, and the action is fun despite its flaws
I would recommend Lapis x Labyrinth the same way I would recommend pizza: If it’s what you’re craving, definitely go for it, but basing an entire diet around it would be a bad idea.
If you want a solid, silly action game you can sink a ton of hours into, I think you’ll really enjoy this one.
Jake reviewed Lapis x Labyrinth on Nintendo Switch with a review code from the developer.
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