Posted on 11 Mar 2020 by Jay Shaw

Record of Lodoss War-Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth-

The Defence

Developer: Why so serious?, Team Ladybug
Publisher: Why so serious?, PLAYISM
Genre: Action, Adventure, Platformer
Platform: PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: 12 Mar 2020

The Prosecution

OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo or higher
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia Open GL compliant
AMD equivalent
HDD: 50 MB
DirectX: OpenGL
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: 120+

With one heck of a wordy title, Record of Lodoss War-Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, Wonder Labyrinth from here on, has a lot to live up to. Right from the introduction it’s obvious that developers Team Ladybug and Why So Serious? obviously have an immense amount of love for Record of Lodoss War and have gone the extra mile to make Wonder Labyrinth stand out.

Immediately startling is the quality of the animation. Deedlit herself has a crazy amount of animation frames for almost every action and once you have a spirit to aid you she leaves behind after images of these frames, showing off her High Elf speed. Even regular enemies display beautiful animation and bosses, especially Pirotess, are on par with Deedlit for their animations. Parallax scrolling on backgrounds also uses multiple layers and manages to convey an impressive amount of depth to the detailed backgrounds. Descending through a demon infested tower with huge windows on the back wall showing a view of mountains and trees, each moving independently for the parallax effect, is one of the best uses of the effect we’ve seen in a long time. At points the background changes too, in the Pirotess fight a fountain’s clear blue water turns red, a small detail that many other developers would pass up.

It’s not all shiny sprites and animations though; Wonder Labyrinth also has excellent gameplay. It falls into the basic Metroidvania mould by way of Symphony of the Night. You’ll collect new weapons, spells, and abilities while exploring and many of these will enable you to reach new areas of the map. Pretty standard stuff. Where Wonder Labyrinth excels in its genre is the improvements Team Ladybug have made to combat: Deedlit can attack in eight directions with each weapon and her bow can be aimed up and down within a set arc. Rapidly firing the bow will keep the last set direction so you can easily spray down a troublesome boss or flying demon from a distance. Flying enemies that would be a pain to deal with in Symphony of the Night are far easier to dispatch in Wonder Labyrinth – it’s a small thing but such a welcome improvement to the formula.

They're even easier to kill if you have a long pointy stick.

In addition to her stabbing abilities Deedlit has two spirits, fire and air which can be swapped between with a tap of a button. Each one applies its element to your attacks and some enemies are weaker to one or the other; a mummy for example will burn up from a fire attack but will shrug off blows made with the air element. Deedlit is also defended by her spirits and enemy attacks made of a matching element will be nullified as they hit her. This Ikaruga style switching mechanic is used in platforming too, rapidly switching to dash through magic walls or use the air spirit’s hovering ability to traverse stretches of water and spikes. It seems the air element is generally more useful but the build we played is fairly limited so it’s possible the fire spirit will gain more abilities later in the game. Killing enemies will drop orbs, absorbed by your spirits, which level up their attack power between 1-3, with excess cubes being stored as a form of healing that trickles out when you switch spirits.

Other Record of Lodoss War characters show up too; Parn, Deedlit’s love interest, arrives briefly and again the developer’s love of the subject shines through as Deedlit is shocked and chases after her love. It’s used as a way to guide the player as well as advance the story and sits perfectly with how you’d expect the elven heroine to act. She’s outright glad to see Ghim, playing the role of shopkeep in Wonder Labyrinth, and she comes off as more tolerant of other main characters in general, her haughtiness subdued by her confusion. The wizard Slayn also makes a brief appearance, seemingly in the same role Maria plays in Symphony of the Night; enigmatic fellow adventurer. Even for new players who aren’t existing fans of Record of Lodoss War the characters are well presented and generally kept vague enough that not knowing them doesn’t matter. For fans though, there’s a little more to read into between the lines. Don’t expect a grand narrative told exclusively by the raising of a pixelated eyebrow but knowing Deedlit and her party does add to these meetings.

Wonder Labyrinth is very much an old-school Metroidvania game but Team Ladybug haven’t stuck to the old formula so closely as to be detrimental. Natural platforms don’t adhere to a basic square grid and are often curved and more interesting to fight on while man-made areas are more flat but complex and littered with little extras such as arrow ricochet puzzles that reward you for exploring and experimenting with your bow. If we have to nit pick, it’s worth mentioning that the one magic spell present in the build we played, Will O The Wisp, is very abusable in a boss battle as casting it briefly pauses all movement and it homes in on your target. It deals multiple moderately powered hits and can be cast in rapid succession. The final boss we fought, Pirotess, gets utterly annihilated if you dump your whole MP (Magic Points, Mana, whatever you prefer to call it) bar into this one spell.

The Pirotess battle is an excellent example of masterful animation and background art.

Having a powerful hero in a Metroidvania isn’t a bad thing; Bloodstained and Symphony of the Night both have heroes whose power exceeds the enemies by a good margin but are fairly fragile to attacks. Deedlit isn’t quite as easily vanquished as Alucard, erring more towards Miriam or Samus on the scale of hero toughness. Levelling up provides a slow climb to your stats and general gameplay seemed to keep us ahead of the curve against standard enemies while keeping bosses a decent challenge without them being overwhelming.

You can also learn how best to deal with enemies by paying attention to a small panel on the HUD in the bottom right of the screen. This enemy name panel shows their health bar, resistances, and attacks. The latter two are shown in the form of six sided dice with icons above them; red for attacks and blue for resistances. For example, an enemy with a fire symbol above a dice showing 1 will be very vulnerable to attacks with the fire spirit equipped. For fans of pen and paper RPGs this is a fairly easy way to remember enemy stats and allows you to gauge an encounter at a glance without consciously reading anything. It also shows Team Ladybug’s deep love of the series by acknowledging its genesis from tabletop gaming of decades past.

With Wonder Labyrinth currently incomplete it’s impossible to pass judgement to any degree of accuracy but based on what we played it’s shaping up to be a game that will utterly redefine the genre. If Team Ladybug manage to keep this degree of quality throughout the entire product, may even surpass genre legend Symphony of the Night to claim the top spot. Whether you’re a fan of Record of Lodoss War or not we recommend Wonder Labyrinth wholeheartedly and can’t wait for more content to be added over the Early Access period.

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