"The Labyrinth is no joke. It may not change a lot graphically, but its endless traps, constant confusions, and expansive size more than make up for it. A maze of winding corridors and twisting passages, you’ll get lost quickly if you’re not paying careful attention. You have no map – that would’ve been too easy! – so you must rely on memory alone."
My experience with first-person dungeon crawlers is limited. I’d probably played maybe two in my entire life. So when I stumbled upon Shining in the Darkness, I didn’t quite know what to expect.
It definitely surprised me. At first glance, it seems to simple to be interesting. With only three places to visit, and with two of them containing very little to do, I began to wonder how the only a single dungeon could hold a player’s attention throughout the entirety of the game.
I soon found out.
The kingdom of Thornwood is in grave peril. On a whim, Princess Jessa decided to explore the local labyrinth, taking your father with her, and has yet to return. In order to get her back, the unnamed king has hired you, the self-named hero, to fetch her.
The plot thickens, when, to everyone’s surprise, a villain appears. In one miscalculated move, our boastful fiend tells the court his grand plans, secure that no one can pass through his labyrinth. Dark Sol is his name, and he has the princess (and your father) captive! What’s more, he wants to rule the kingdom and release the Darkness from within the maze’s walls! *shock, gasp, faint*
After his equally sudden departure, you’re finally granted access to the labyrinth itself and told to find some sort of clue that Jessa’s really there. Because king and company can’t be entirely sure whether the Boastful Villain was telling the truth even though there’s clearly nowhere else she can be.
That’s where the silliness ends. The Labyrinth is no joke. It may not change a lot graphically, but its endless traps, constant confusions, and expansive size more than make up for it. A maze of winding corridors and twisting passages, you’ll get lost quickly if you’re not paying careful attention. You have no map – that would’ve been too easy! – so you must rely on memory alone. There isn’t much to mark your path. Torches line some halls, but they don’t necessarily reveal the correct direction. Pools of water provide the only other source of orientation, but they’re scarce, and they don’t necessarily point in the right direction, either.
And you’re not alone. Monsters prowl the dungeon, seeking nothing but your demise. They’ll appear suddenly, often ganging up on you two or three at a time. Sometimes you’ll get lucky enough to ambush them, giving you a preemptive strike, but that can easily go the other way as well.
You’ll die a lot, especially early on. But that won’t stop you because you’re too eager to progress further. You figure that if you could just explore a bit more, maybe you’ll uncover some sort of treasure or secret. Maybe you’ll finally reach your goal, even though you don’t know what you’re really looking for.
Eventually the puny slimes that throttled you give way beneath your feet, and you’re able to advance to the next “area” – more of the same just with stronger enemies – and the process begins anew. Your levels gradually advance as you travel; your equipment becomes stronger. Many trips back to town for rest and supplies ensure this because staying too long in an inhospitable dungeon usually ends badly.
Soon a boss literally scuttles onscreen – the deadly Kaiser Crab. Thanks to your adventurous spirit, you just might be strong enough to take him down. After defeating it (and receiving numerous injuries in the process), you collect the very clue you sought, though what that overly large metallic crustacean was doing with the royal tiara will forever remain a mystery.
Limping back to the castle (or just teleporting if you had the foresight to buy an item), you present the crown to the king. Much discussion later opens new paths inside the Labyrinth as well as offering the opportunity to collect party members.
Your friends Milo and Pyra are goofing off in the tavern – they’ll do just fine. But only after you level them up to your strength first.
Versed in the arts of magic, they’ll prove most useful, but they also make things a bit more challenging.
If you thought the monsters tough and the corridors perplexing before, you’ve got a lot to learn. Tasked with completing a set of trials to prove your worth, your journey’s just beginning. Beasts swarm you now – your extra party members embolden them to attack in larger groups, up to eight! And they’re stronger – much stronger. The Kaiser Crab becomes an almost regular appearance. Trap chests contain creatures instead of treasure, creatures capable of putting your party to sleep on top of health-crushing damage.
It’s time to put that magic to use. Milo’s defensive magic coupled with Pyra’s offensive make for quite a powerful team. Spells of quickness will increase speed and defense while destructive magic will blast foes out of your way more easily than simply attacking. But just because you can use them doesn’t mean you should. Spend too much mana on weaker enemies, and you won’t have enough for bosses or trap monsters. You must think of exactly how you’ll use your newfound power. Otherwise the Labyrinth will claim you as its next victim. Since you can only save in town, death should be first and foremost on your prevention list.
You’d best be careful, too. Monsters aren’t your only threat now. The Labyrinth itself seems to turn against you. No longer is it merely a maze of dead ends and disorienting walkways. Trapdoors drop beneath your feet, sending you to levels below. Walls collapse in front of you, sealing formerly opening passages. Disks spin you a fixed number of degrees before ejecting you into a seemingly random corridor. The Labyrinth itself becomes larger, more puzzling. It’ll take more than just rote memorization to get you through safely.
You’ll be heavily dependent on that View spell, the closest thing to a map you’re going to get. But you’ll need to watch your mana. That spell will be the first sacrificed in the name of conservation, especially when enchanted moss considerably drained your magical energy, and you’re saving the remainder for combat and healing.
Use your brain correctly and control your party appropriately, and you’ll succeed where many before you have failed. You’ll pass through the maze and all its trials. You’ll rescue the princess, defeat the evil villain, and seal the Darkness forever.
Community review by wolfqueen001 (December 24, 2008)
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