Lapis x Labyrinth – Nintendo Switch
Developed By : NIS America
Published By : NIS America
Category : Action, Platformer
Release Date : May 28, 2019
Reviewed by: Shaun Hughes
No strangers to Nintendo Switch game development…
With a steady number of releases since its inception two years ago, NIS and NIS America are no strangers to Nintendo Switch game development. In fact, they are keen advocates of all Nintendo hardware with many games available on the Nintendo DS and 3DS systems. Renowned for their role-playing prowess with games such as Disgaea and Atelier, they have looked to expanded their reach with lesser known IPs and variations on the theme.
The most recent title from NIS America is Lapis x Labyrinth. Latin for stone, Lapis is commonly used when refereeing to a particular type of gemstone. Question is though, is Lapis x Labyrinth another gem to add to the NIS America collection? Find out here at The Switch Effect.
With a struggling town looking to recover from bankruptcy, Lapis x Labyrinth has you assembling a merry band of fighters to descend into the labyrinth to loot for treasure and defeat the enemies lurking below. The aforementioned town is where you begin, and where you will return to at the end of each quest. Whilst here, you can create your party and assign new recruits, make purchases at the shop to aid your adventures, or visit the Guild to start your next visit to the labyrinth. All of this can be done either by traversing the rather small platforming town, or, via fast travel – my preferred choice.
What was immediately striking, even before I started playing for the first time, was the detailed and vibrant depiction of the game. The visuals are incredibly eye-catching, with no expense spared on the production front. From the backdrop to the characters and the landscapes, I was enamoured by the graphical style. It felt polished, crisp and inviting, and was one of the many pulls towards the game from the start. With rose-tinted spectacles on, I jumped straight into the labyrinth and got to looting.
In a rather unusual take on the party dynamics, you navigate through the labyrinth with your characters stacked on top of one another. Using the ‘L’ bumper, you swap between characters, with the character at the bottom of the stack being the one you are in control of. Each character has their own reason for being the number one member of your party, either through their unique abilities or the weapons and armour you equip them with. All of these can be found in the depths of the labyrinth, and you are also rewarded with these after the completion of a quest.
Once your party is assembled and well-equipped for the challenges that lie ahead, you take the lift down and start the quest. Typically, the quests take on two stages. The first is to find a portal that will take you to the next floor, and this is repeated until you come across the final floor. When you have found it, you will encounter a boss – or multiples bosses – that you must defeat. After they are defeated, you take the loot and make your way back to town via another portal.
Although looting is the goal, the combat is where the money is made. You navigate platforms and encounter enemies as you go, during which point you start battle. At this time, a section of the labyrinth is cordoned off and these blockades won’t disappear until you have defeated every foe. You will find yourself making use of two attack buttons to fight the enemies, and the occasional use of the ‘R’ button to produce a special move that your party completes in unison. After enemies are disposed of, their bodies are replaced with gemstones for you to collect. Here, you will experience yet again the beauty of this 2D-crafted starburst of colours.
Almost willing me to like the game, regardless of the gameplay itself, the polished visuals are on point. This is turned up a notch when ‘Fever’ hits and your characters Fever Gauge is maxed out. Every member of your party becomes invincible, and the gems fly at an incredible rate. As well as this, fireworks explode in the background causing spectacular scenes for a short amount of time. It’s very difficult not to enjoy the game at these moments, but what I found after some time playing was that looks can be deceiving.
It became evident that I was willing Lapis x Labyrinth to be more than it was, changing my playstyle and approaching levels differently in the hope the early promise would come to fruition. Unfortunately, I was left with a game that whilst looks incredible, is lacking where it matters most: gameplay.
Defeat enemies, collect loot, and repeat…
The reason I felt the gameplay was lacking was because once the initial excitement of the game wore off, I found I was left with a largely repetitive cycle of defeat enemies, collect loot, and repeat. Although similar cycles appear in many successful games, the dungeons you travel through are very repetitive too. With around 7 quests per world, it took until the 4th or 5th dive into the labyrinth for everything to become all too familiar. With my motivation to go again waning, it was only heightened by the lack of challenge that the dungeons represented. Receiving an S rank in a quest levels you up quicker, and I was often at a level that meant I could handle all that was sent my way.
Although there was some differentiation between each world which injected some much needed life back into my playthrough, I was often left waiting too long before this happened.
I can see why gamers may enjoy this title, and in the infancy of my time with the game, I was enjoying it. With a vibrant and delectable graphical style, it was hard not to like it. Fast forward some time though and I came to realise that this was all I was going to get. If the combat system had offered more or the platforming elements were more varied, and the longevity of this game would have been increased. As it stands, it’s a game that outstays it’s welcome – particularly at that price.