And the award for the longest, most awkward title I’ve seen in some time is… Seriously though, Wonder Labyrinth here is a pretty good game, though obviously it’s drawing some inspiration from the classic anime that’s directly placed in the title.
The game follows the titular Deedlit, who finds herself in the titular Wonder Labyrinth, her mind a little hazy on why exactly she’s there. From there, it becomes a matter of engaging with the action exploration game as you try to figure out what precisely is actually going on here.
I was tempted to make further semi-snide comments regarding the story here. In some ways, it feels like the developers had put together an entire, pretty good metroidvania game (more on that in a bit), then looked at each other and asked what they should do in regards to the story. That decision seems to have been to mostly copy and paste the story from their last game into this one.
I’m not joking in that regard. This is the same company that put together the metroidvania Touhou Luna Nights, a game I played before I started reviewing on this blog. Like Wonder Labyrinth here, that game utilizes an already established property and develops a game around it. For Touhou Luna Nights, the idea was that the main character had been dropped into a mysterious labyrinth as a testing ground, teasing the possibility of some new ability or reward at the end. For Wonder Labyrinth, the idea was that the main character had been dropped into a mysterious labyrinth as a testing ground, teasing the possibility of some new ability or reward at the end.
In Touhou Luna Nights, people from the main character’s past show up to make what almost feels like cameo appearances as they help or hinder her along in her journey. In Wonder Labyrinth, people from the main character’s past show up to make what almost feels like cameo appearances as they help or hinder her along in her journey. They always say strangely cryptic things, and there always seems to be just a bit of missing context.
However, I will give Wonder Labyrinth credit. At the very end, and I mean when I had literally 95% of the game completed, they throw in some incredibly interesting and fairly engaging twists to the overall story that put the entire rest of the game into a quite interesting context. I really can’t even get more into them, because obviously you don’t want to discuss twists in a review like this, particularly for a fairly new game (Wonder Labyrinth may have been out on most systems for a while, but it just hit the Switch this year).
So I’ll leave it at that, and instead focus on the part where Wonder Labyrinth truly does its best: the actual gameplay.
It’s often pointed out, and I believe I’ve done it some too, that most games that earn the whole “metroidvania” label either lean one way or the other: toward the Metroid side of things or the Castlevania part. The latter usually have some action RPG elements into play, and often have more fantastical elements or other nods.
Wonder Labyrinth feels like the developers have studied every aspect of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and done their level best to include it into this new game. That means that pretty much everything that the classic SoN does, this game does as well. The spritework and animations are absolutely beautiful, showing great detail and just having that really timeless look that good sprites have a tendency to do. Deedlit even has the after image effect to running that Alucard so famously has, granting that same feeling of controlling this powerful immortal on their journey.
It really does feel like Team Ladybug copied SoN’s homework. Everything from the various unlockable abilities Deedlit receives (including things like the ability to fly and freely traverse water) to the way the shops are set up to the very way Deedlit moves and handles feels like it was ripped off of that classic game. That being said, if you’re going to copy a game when making your metroidvania, it makes sense to go straight to the classics, and several fans have been singing the game’s praises for doing precisely that.
So what does Wonder Labyrinth do differently? For one thing, it still has that semi-nonsensical story, which as someone who’s played pretty well every one of the exploration based Castlevania games (and Castlevania 64!), I can attest is something that’s usually a feature. However, the biggest change in this game is the spirit system.
If you look back at the big boom screenshot, you’ll note that it says that the spirit of fire allows you to stand in explosions. It actually does a bit more than that: lava doesn’t affect you, nor do various fire attacks or magic that often serves as barriers to various areas. Deedlit also has access to the spirit of wind, which instantly grants her a hovering fly ability as well as the ability to ignore various wind elemental attacks.
The two spirits are obtained very quickly in the game, with only a little time to sort of adjust to the controls before they’re incorporated. You can switch between them with a press of the button, and correctly utilizing them becomes the way of smoothly navigating through Wonder Labyrinth.
This becomes more than just utilizing the various abilities that are attached to either spirit. And yes, the game does attach the moment and other abilities to one spirit or another, which is a clever way of incorporating the necessary upgrades throughout the game. But in addition to that, Deedlit’s attacks take on some aspects of those elements. Different enemies are weak or strong to various elements, so it becomes about correctly deducing their weaknesses and targeting them with whatever they’re weakest to.
They do a great job making combat feel frantic and fast through the use of that. Sometimes enemies, particularly bosses, will start with one element before switching to the other. It’s on the player to use the correct element to nullify an attack and then to possibly switch to the opposite element to do a fair amount of damage.
As I said, a lot of the bosses take advantage of this system. They lean on the developer’s strengths, which means a lot of projectiles filling the screen and a lot of fast paced action. I found most of the bosses to be really fun to play against. Some pushed my limits, but this game isn’t as hard as several of the other metroidvanias out there. It actually feels like the challenge here would come in attempting to finish this game as quickly as possible, given how much of the game leans on the speed aspect.
The other major thing that Wonder Labyrinth includes is the use of a bow. It makes sense that an elf would rely heavily on that classic ranged weapon, and I believe Deedlit’s known for it in the anime (I haven’t seen it since the late nineties, so my memory is very fuzzy). This serves as your ranged attack, and it works pretty well as you’d expect: hold a button to draw out the bow, aim it with the right stick, fire with another.
They do some really interesting things with that bow and puzzles. They introduce an idea early on that involves shooting various metallic portions in order to get the arrows to ricochet and hit various targets. Often it’s like the one above: the goal is to severe a rope with a well placed arrow. Sometimes instead you’ll have to fill a big with enough arrows to weight it down and sink it.
It’s a neat mechanic, and I appreciate that they’ve worked puzzles into their metroidvania. It’s something you don’t see very often. Unfortunately, they become overreliant on those arrow puzzles, and they become annoying at times. This goes doubly for areas that you have to traverse a few times that utilize some arrow puzzles, and triply for sections of the game that require you to precisely hit a target several times in a row in quick succession. This is tricky enough as is, but arrows use up your MP, which means that you can wind up out of MP but needing to shoot arrows in order to progress.
The other major issue with Wonder Labyrinth is that it’s quite short. I 100% completed the game, finding every nook and cranny (I had to use a guide for a handful of them), and it still only took me around 8-10 hours to complete. That’s relatively short for a game, and if you didn’t spend time really exploring and getting into the mechanics, it’s likely you’d finish this in something like 6-8.
Still, overall Wonder Labyrinth is a great experience for fans of the SoTN flavor of Metroidvanias. It’s story may be nonsensical to nonexistent for a large stretch, but unique twists there make it worth a look. On top of that, the mechanics are all solid and on the whole the game is well made.
8 a little more polish on the story and a little less emphasis on stupid shooting puzzles and this game could’ve really had something.