As an avid puzzle fan, one who likes puzzles which really makes you think about the solution rather than breezing through some simplistic designs, Last Labyrinth stood out as a game I needed to get my hands on. From the outside the game looks great – fully-seated gameplay (with a companion doing whatever you tell her to do), a combination of logic, cryptic, and environmental puzzles, very clear and creepy-looking visuals, and a mysterious setting which you begin to understand the further into the game you get.
Last Labyrinth is the creation of AMATA K.K., a Japanese development studio who presented the game as a Kickstarter campaign back in early 2019 (although the game was shown off as far back as 2016 during its development). The game smashed its 2 million yen goal (around £14k) and reached 2.5 million (around £17k), allowing the team to put the finishing touches on it before releasing on PSVR and all major PC VR headsets in November this year.
So, with expectations and excitement high, I eagerly donned my headset, loaded up the game and jumped right into the mysterious mansion. But, is it as good as the initial impressions make out? Let’s find out…
The story within Last Labyrinth is something I feel I shouldn’t really get too deep into as A. You learn more as you play, so it’s possibly deemed a spoiler, and B. I’m not 100% sure I fully know what’s going on myself! Basically, you’ve woken up within a mysterious old house, handcuffed to a wheelchair in, what looks like, some sort of bondage gear that’s keeping you restricted and unable to move. Well, that’s not entirely true as you can flop your hands about and twist them around, but you can’t raise them or reach out – you can also move your head freely without restriction.
However, one unusual addition to your person is the laser pointer device which is glued | strapped | embedded | Blu-tacked | balanced on your head. Also, in your right hand is a strange contraption, pushing its single button allows the new laser-based tool to shoot out a short red beam as if you’re a very weak Cyclops or presenting a Powerpoint presentation to a class of school kids. however, this laser isn’t just for show, so you can create your own laser disco as you live your final days within your wheelchair prison, it effectively turns Last Labyrinth into a point-and-click game.
You’re also not alone in the room you wake up in, a fact which is made clear when you first point your third eye at the lamp in front of you. A hand appears out of the darkness, pulls the cord and literally illuminates your world. It’s the hand of a young girl, a girl who from this point on becomes your hands and feet (although why she doesn’t just untie you is anyone’s guess). If you point on a door, she’ll open it; tell her to flick a switch, no problem; ask her to push a button knowing full well you’ve not solved the puzzle so she’ll probably die, no questions asked…
And so begins your beautiful friendship between you, a bondage-wearing prisoner who is chained to a wheelchair, and the young girl who is so trusting, she’ll do whatever you tell her to do (non-verbally) despite her life literally being on the line.
The gameplay in Last Labyrinth is nice and simple (as I’ve explained the majority of it above). You can’t move other than the rotation of your head and the flopping around of your hands – either independently with Move controllers or in sync with a DualShock 4. However, the only button you’ll be pushing is either the Move button or Cross, as that’s the button which operates your thumb as it activates your laser. This isn’t the only interactions you have with your young companion, she’ll regularly ask for your approval on performing certain operations just in case you accidentally pointed at something you didn’t mean to. A simple nod or shake of your head relays your final decision as she mindlessly does as she’s told – often resulting in a gruesome, yet strangely satisfying, death.
Speaking of which, your companion is a young girl named Katia, a mysterious child who doesn’t appear to speak your language. Now, the first time you hear her, you’d be forgiven to think she’s speaking some form of Japanese or Korean, but she’s not – it’s a made-up language which nobody can understand, regardless of the language you speak. This is interesting as I initially thought the game was lacking subtitles (as she talks a lot throughout the game), but it’s been done on purpose so that you hear her talk but you need to focus on her emotions and body language in order to understand what she’s trying to say.
So, despite the game supporting a lot of languages, I think it’s something like 12 or 14, you won’t actually get any understandable spoken narrative as you play, the entire story is yet another mysterious puzzle waiting for you to solve and understand.
One thing which confused me, until I’ve seen a few of the endings (as there are more than a couple to unlock), is the mansion you’ve awoken within. There are often ‘choice rooms’ which offer nothing but things for you to ask Katia to look at as well as a few doors. Picking one of these will send you down a new pathway into a room which has no relation or correlation to the one you just came from. It’s like the Crystal Maze, each room is its own puzzle for you to solve, yet other than the setting of the mansion, there isn’t any obvious relation to one another. However, things become clearer the further into the game you get.
Last Labyrinth is a very clever and thought-provoking puzzle game. The puzzles themselves range from being straight forward to being a right bastard to try and solve, often resulting in a lot of deaths. That’s right, each and every puzzle room has one goal, solve the puzzle correctly or both yourself and the girl dies… this is apparent in the first puzzle I came across, a simplistic train-based puzzle. You get Katia to push a button and a train moves around a track, either ending up on a rail at the top which opens the door or a rail which forces the locomotion to cut four ropes…
As soon as you push the button, stocks fall on our cute companion, locking her in place as the train makes its journey. If you’ve not pulled the right levers and altered the track accordingly, the first rope will be cut – resulting in a guillotine slicing into the young girl and leaving her lifeless body dangling from the stocks. Then, the next rope locks you in place, the third slides down your own stocks which you can’t escape from, and finally, the blade seals your fate in a very horrifying and realistic manner within VR. So far I’ve seen the girl gassed, hung, blown up, eaten, swarmed by insects, crushed, shot, and even killed by injection. I think it’s fair to say that this is the first puzzle game I’ve played which truely does leave you in life or death situations…
I’ve had a few problems with some of the puzzles so far, as some of them get really tricky. One, which is a take on working out the weight of coloured weights then balancing them out, had me staring at the ‘examples’ for about 30 minutes as I worked out the solution. Don’t get me started on Yōkaï no Mori – I suck at that so bad! But, the feeling of satisfaction when you push the button and get a green light as the door springs open is great. Some rooms are obvious – it’ll be a room with a puzzle in the middle or shadow shapes you have to recreate – yet others will be more cryptic with hardly any clues on what’s required to open the door.
Unfortunately, there’s no hint system or skip option, so if you get stuck on a puzzle then you may begin to get frustrated, as I did a few times.
What I love about Last Labyrinth though is Katia. Your standard escape room or puzzle game in VR is usually all about you, find a way out and survive without getting yourself caught or killed in the process. Last Labyrinth introduces us to a new reason for solving the puzzle, a young girl who can’t make decisions on her own and relies upon us in order to proceed. So, instead of selflessly thinking about yourself and trying to escape this hell, you’ll find you’re more concerned about solving things correctly so that you don’t end up seeing your companion die in front of you over, and over again. It gives you a real reason for doing what your doing and adds a touch of urgency and determination in getting things right. This is something you usually don’t see outside of games which are heavy on ‘escort’ mechanics.
Map of the mansion?
The one thing I didn’t like about Last Labyrinth is the lack of a map or flowchart – although it is called ‘Labyrinth’ so that may be why the game is rather brutal at times. When you die within a puzzle, if you’ve just come from a ‘choice room’ (with multiple doors), you can opt to either jump back into the puzzle you died in or you can return to the ‘choice room’ and pick another path. However, although there are branching pathways, multiple endings and lots of puzzles to discover, I found myself venturing into rooms which I’ve completed previously, requiring me to complete the puzzle all over again. This is because you may not have taken a certain branch in the final stages of the path you’ve gone down, so you need to work your way back there by going through the same puzzles.
Although this all makes sense and I agree it’s what you’d expect if you were actually locked within a strange building, it would have been nice if we had the option to skip puzzles we’ve previously completed. I don’t know how many times I’ve done the ‘Simon says’, ‘balancing weights’, and ‘lights out’ games, but each time I accidentally stumble upon them I reach for my notebook where I’ve written the solutions down (as the answers don’t change). Because there’s no actual map or indication of places you’ve been (other than the occasional door that gets boarded up so you can’t go that way), there’s no indication on what puzzle you’ll get or if it’s going to be a new one or one you’ve seen prior. There’s also no menu, so you can’t willfully return to the ‘choice room’ unless you get yourself killed first.
Each route you make it to the end of will grant you with a short cutscene outside, on the edge of a cliff. These are quite funny as each one ends differently with the girl interacting with you, or dying, in a new way. Not only are there multiple of these to uncover, but there is also a number of actual endings to find, usually involving you facing the Phantom in some way or another. He’s an unknown ‘person’ who will occasionally appear behind Katia as she turns on the light, grabbing her and throwing her about the place or forcing you to play a game with him. When you do, it’s usually a case of either you die or she does – the tensest of which was one which ended with a game of Russian Roulette – that made me jump!
I did touch on this above but in my opinion, Last Labyrinth is a very hard, yet satisfying game. I’ve glanced over a few YouTube videos last night and most of them ended in the gamer rage quitting over a puzzle they got stuck on or taking a break because their head hurts (not due to the VR but due to the complexity of the puzzles). As such, if you’re good at logic and cryptic puzzles, are willing to think outside of the box, and don’t mind seeing both yourself and a young girl die in many ways each time you fail, then you’ll be just fine. However, if you’re unable to solve the puzzle above (what weights will balance out three pink ones in this case) then you may get stuck on a few puzzles.
As I’ve noted a few times though, the reward for completing the puzzles is more than simply living to see another day and saving the life of your new friend, it gives you a great feeling of pride and satisfaction as you’ve overcome a difficult task. A lot of puzzle-based games don’t really deliver this anymore, giving you countless hints and clues as to what to do and where to move things, but Last Labyrinth simply doesn’t care if you continuously die over and over again. Although, the skip option, if you’ve already completed a puzzle, would be a fantastic option…
The great thing about PSVR though is it’s ‘Social Screen’ – get around a few friends or family members and have them watch you on the TV whilst you’re immersed in the creepy mansion. They can help you work out the solutions and give you hints and tips on what to do if you get stuck. However, if you live alone like me, you may have to resort to simple trial and error or taking screenshots and leaving VR for a while whilst you work out the answers on paper before putting yourself back into the wheelchair and trying out your solution.
As of today, 18th November, there isn’t any walkthroughs or guides online – so if you grab it now you are forced to work things out for yourself – which makes it more fun in my opinion.
As Last Labyrinth is basically a series of small to large rooms which all have their own loading time and individual presence, the game looks fantastic. The wall, floor, objects and character details are high up on the best I’ve seen in a realistic-based PSVR title. The animations with Katia are also very smooth and realistic, especially when she’s pulling around objects and getting flung about. The whole experience is very creepy and surreal as it really feels like you’re there, chained to the chair.
In terms of the audio, the developers have gone for the perfect choice of no music. Well, there’s the title and ending music but none in the game itself as it’s all about the ambient noises and the vocal work of Stefanie Joosten, the voice of Katia. This helps with your concentration as you try to work out the solutions as well as immerses you into the role – hearing the slight breeze coming in from the door, the noise of the switches you pull, and constantly wishing you know what Katia was blabbering on about as she stares at you with her dead eyes!
Speaking of Katia – she’s like a cat (Cat-ia), so curious yet also annoying at times. When you enter a new room she’ll proceed to walk around and look at things, often staring at items you may want to ‘point’ at. However, sometimes she gets in the way and stands right in front of you. One such instance is when you’re in a rotating room which has a number of ‘Cut the Rope’ puzzles (like the old popular mobile game). You have to get her to pick up a flaming torch and burn ropes so the ‘puck’ falls onto a certain switch. However, she’ll often just stand right in front of you and stare at the puzzle, not letting you see it or point at a rope for her to burn. As such, she’s a cute companion and well-detailed, but really should keep to the side and not stand right in front of me when in an enclosed area.
I love the puzzles though, there are a few based on popular games such as Lights Out and the aforementioned Cut the Rope, but there are also a lot of environmental and unique puzzles to solve as well. They really do stand out and the fear of death (and seeing a young girl die rather brutally in some instances) is something I can honestly say I’ve not seen in VR before. However, price. In Asia (Hong Kong) it’s $289 (about £28) yet over here in the UK it’s £36.99. I’ve spent about five hours in-game so far, so it’s got a decent length, but it does feel a little steep in its price for the game you’re getting. I would have personally thought around £20-25 would have been more appealing.
If you love cryptic and logic-based puzzles with no hand-holding, and VR, Last Labyrinth is for you. Offering a varied selection of puzzles, ranging from classics to new and unique, you never know what lies just beyond the next door you go through. With the help of your ‘Yes-Man’ companion, the entire game is played via a seated position with a laser pointer on your head, making it perfect for those with mobility issues in real life (like myself) and delivers zero nausea-inducing movements. The price may be a little steep at its RRP, but the experience, puzzles, visuals, and multiple endings all enforce the quality and enjoyment you’ll get out of this challenging VR puzzle game.
If you want to find out more about Last Labyrinth, its development, the actress behind Katia, and the various creators, check out the official website here: https://lastlabyrinth.jp/en/ If you want to hear the main theme (also sung by Stefanie Joosten) and see some behind the scene footage, please check out the video HERE.
- - Visually, the game looks great and very clear in VR
- - The puzzles really challenge you and leave you with a feeling of satisfaction when you've worked them out
- - The animations are really good for a VR game as they help you understand Katia even though she speaks nonsense
- - Although limited in movement (as you're tied to a wheelchair), the laser mechanic works great and there's no movement so no motion sickness
- - You'll soon care about the girl to the point where you'll ensure you get things right so you don't have to see her die in front of you anymore
- - No map in the game (other than the ability to go back one room if/when you die). This means you could get stuck on puzzles you find too hard
- - Some puzzles repeat as you go down the same path looking for new branches, offering no ability to skip the ones you completed previously
- - The game gets pretty hard at times, becoming rather cryptic with what you have to do
- - The price seems a bit steep for this type of game, even though I've loved playing it so far
- - Katia can sometimes walk in in front of you and block your view with her body. This only happened a few times but it was annoying when it did occur