But the game boasts of having more than one hundred different monster types – surely this remarkable variety of monsters will keep the gameplay feeling fresh? Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, since it won’t be long before you realize that almost none of these foes require any unique strategies. They’re all fundamentally the same, and as long as you never stop mashing the attack buttons, you’ll survive combat without a scratch. However, the game is also notably unbalanced with several dramatic difficulty spikes. The first half of the game can practically be played with your eyes closed until one section randomly cranks the difficulty up to eleven before settling back down into much calmer levels punctuated by boss battles that felt frustrating and unfair.
That said, even if the combat were deeper or the difficulty more balanced, you might not have even been able to see it. It’s nearly impossible to understand what’s going on at any given moment in Lapis x Labyrinth – enemies attack by the dozens, and with gold and damage numbers flying across the screen with every fallen foe, it’s easy to lose track of your heroes. This is especially true in Fever Mode, which is triggered by defeating a large number of enemies in a row. Monsters begin drop significantly more loot and you’re granted temporary invincibility, but this feverish rush of combat is also paired with insane amounts of treasure flying across the screen to the point where it’s impossible to have the slightest idea as to what’s going on. This confusion is even worse in the boss battles, which generally just toss you into a pit full of supercharged enemies where you can lose track of your character amidst the absurd clutter of monsters and flying gems. The overwhelming visual affects might make this game completely unplayable for anyone who’s medically sensitive to flashing lights, and unfortunately there’s no option to turn them off.
This is not to mention how the labyrinth itself also falls prey to repetition. I understand that clever platforming isn’t the focus of an action RPG like this, but that’s no excuse for the level design to be so oppressively bland, frustrating, and repetitive. A bit like the enemies, there is very little to differentiate one stage from another aside from its background. In fact, the developers seem to have given up on creating unique levels halfway through development, since many stages outright repeat themselves – I noticed one stage layout appearing at least three different times throughout the campaign with almost no variation. This is not to mention the often-frustrating design of each stage. The game emphasizes speed in its gameplay with a five-minute time limit on every room, but with the boring and completely forgettable design of each stage, it’s easy to get lost and spend embarrassing amounts of time wandering around in circles in a vain attempt to find the exit.
At the very least, the presentation manages to be a consistent strong point despite the inane repetition of the rest of the game. Character designs take on a charming anime chibi style, with bouncy bobble heads that suit themselves to stacking. Environments are beautiful and painterly, ranging from lush forests to abandoned factories to mysterious underground lakes. That said, it’s easy for many platforms to blend into the background, making it even easier to hit dead ends in level exploration. The music is passable with plenty of upbeat tunes for the different regions, although the soundtrack often comes off as unoriginal and generic. It wouldn’t be surprising if many of the themes were pulled off of a stock music site after a quick Google search for “upbeat battle music.”
Still, it’s worth noting that there’s very little that Lapis x Labyrinth does outright wrong. Its combos are functional, its art is appealing, and its upgrade systems are robust, if limited. Performance is generally solid, although the frame rate can fall spectacularly during the most hectic battles. If you can tolerate the visual chaos and find satisfaction in the simple repetition of grinding for the best gear and the highest combos, then this game will likely serve you well. For everyone else, however, the repetition is so overwhelming that you’ll soon be consumed with the urge to smack your chibi bobble head against the wall by the time you’ve trudged to the ending credits. The main issue is that the game takes its decent core gameplay and does absolutely nothing new with it beyond the opening level. It’s no exaggeration to say that if you’ve played the first ten minutes, you’ve played the first ten hours.
Lapis x Labyrinth aims to provide a streamlined action RPG with all the satisfaction of loot grinding but fails to make its fifteen-hour campaign feel consistently engaging. Its action gets monotonous fast and is difficult to even understand amidst the exuberant clutter of flailing enemies and explosions of treasure. Even its charming visuals detract from the experience since they can make the stages even more difficult to navigate. If you’re absolutely desperate for another action game on Switch then Lapis x Labyrinth could perhaps scratch that itch, but there are much better options available on the platform now – any one of the many Warriors games on Switch will provide a more varied and memorable action RPG experience. With essentially no story, no memorable characters, monotonous combat, restricted character progression, and very little stage variety, the entire game becomes a tiresome slog of repetition. When all is said and done, Lapis x Labyrinth simply doesn’t stack up to its potential.
Lapis x Labyrinth review copy provided by NIS America for the purposes of this review.