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Some of my earliest gaming memories – other than edutainment games like Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego (which apparently didn’t work, I’m still terrible at geography) and Math Blaster – are of playing Humongous Entertainment’s point-and-click games like Putt-Putt (specifically the Travels Through Time one), Freddi Fish, and Pajama Sam

I honestly have no clue how I got my hands on them – I definitely wasn’t savvy enough to pirate them at such a young age – they were probably gifts from my aunt to whom I owe a huge part of my introduction to gaming, and oh how thankful I am for that. 

First off, you gotta comprehend just how bad my memory is. For one reason or another, which, don’t worry, we won’t unpack right now, I seem to have blocked out most of my early life memories. And yet, I distinctly remember the feeling of absolute wonder and the fun I had with these games! Especially Putt Putt for some reason, I still remember some levels in that game despite not having touched it for over a decade, easy. These games inadvertently infused an incredible amount of love and respect for games in me, without me even really being aware or appreciative of it at the time. 

Yes, certain moments like discovering you can kick the other bikers and steal their weapons from them in Roadrash, experiencing the staggering amount of depraved freedom in GTA San Andreas, exiting the tutorial cave in Skyrim to this wide-open world, and pulling off a Silent Assassin in the namesake Hitman 2, etc. are extraordinarily memorable and magical. Yet, no other game thus far, including the amazing titles I mentioned above, has come close to reaching that most-deep-seated, pure, and innocently child-like part of my gaming memories as Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective has, and that’s saying a lot. 

These early childhood games will always hold a more specific and for lack of a better word, “pure” place in my heart, just because of how much of a blank slate I was when I first played them, and only Labyrinth City has come close to them. This title brought such joy in my heart right in the first five minutes that my cynical self, for a long time, until starting this review, in fact, didn’t even realize WHY it hit so hard. 

Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective is a casual maze-solving (but not really) adventure game based on the children’s books of the same name, developed by Darjeeling (the French studio, not the Indian city, unfortunately) and published by Pixmain.


In Pursuit of the Ever-Elusive Mr. X

As with most games primarily aimed at children (this is an adaptation of a children’s book series after all), the plot is pretty simple and childishly silly, but extremely charming. Heck, even the antagonist, the “evil” Mr. X – no, not the goofy yet terrifying villain from Resident Evil 2, thank heck – is somewhat endearing. He’s more mischievous and playfully troublesome than truly nefarious in any way. 

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. You play as Pierre, who, as you may have guessed, is a very specific kind of detective, one who specializes in the niche field of mazes. I have no clue how he makes a living, there can’t be that many maze-related crimes can there? But rest assured, when Mr. X steals the magical ‘Maze Stone’ and plunges Opera City into convoluted chaos, his special set of skills come in handy to save the day. 

Pierre is honestly pretty low-impact and didn’t really leave much of an impression, he’s a generic kid detective – so fully clad in red you’d think he was part of the Bloods – equipped with a magnifying glass. However, his friend Carmen, though she doesn’t really do much in the story, brings a lot of the personality of the game to life through the excellent voice-acting. The VA is honestly so well-done and reminiscent of early childhood media that, having been worn down by so many Ubisoft titles, I felt like that jaded food critic in Ratatouille flashing back to his mother’s cooking.

There really isn’t much more to the story than that: Mr. X steals the Maze Stone and you’re tasked with pursuing him through 10 distinct levels – each separated by animated comic-book style cutscenes with delightful voice-acting – until inevitably destroying catching him with facts joy and logic good humor. 


A Delightfully Detailed and Lively Where’s Waldo

The first thing you’ll notice upon starting the first level is just how insanely dense it is. The whole level is packed, and I mean STUFFED to the brim with interesting, fun, and colorful characters and all sorts of happenings. The wonky hand-drawn lines, pencil-colored illustrations drip with charm and personality in every frame. 

The choice of opening the game with a museum level is absolutely brilliant because of the obviously unlimited potential for possible characters and scenarios, and boy do they make good use of the imaginative freedom this provides. Alright, words won’t do it justice, but here’s my attempt at portraying just how much is going on in a single level of this game. 

A gorilla climbs over a marble railing while aristocrats look on in slight surprise, cavemen fight a woolly mammoth while a six-armed (each brandishing a sword) god attacks Zeus perched on his throne as the museum security tries their best to put a stop to it, a kind man attempts to feed a lollipop to a lion, a group of Hawaiian dancers do their thing while a Native-American masked man looks at them in confusion, archers try to shoot down a pterodactyl, a man carries a mermaid in his arms (she can’t walk, understandably), an Egyptian emperor wakes up after 5000 years demanding an explanation, a saber-toothed tiger attacks a Greek statue, a zen janitor does his best amidst the chaos to clean up the mess while a cat shows how little of a damn it gives my curling up and sleeping… I could go on! You could legit make a hundred ‘Where’s Waldo’ games in a single level. 

Goddamn, it honestly feels like it wasn’t just the artists or designers who did their job wonderfully, but even the interns, the janitor, and the Swiggy delivery guy’s ideas on what kind of characters to include were heard and realized in spectacularly eye-catching fashion, and I love it. 

If the average picture is worth a thousand words, a single screenshot of this game is worth probably ten thousand thanks to the sheer amount of characters and things happening. There’s honestly more personality, charm and enjoyment to be had in a single level of Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective than in the entire bloated world of the latest Assassin’s Creed title. Seriously, I’m not even being facetious or hyperbolic. 

Of course, not all of the 10 levels are so chock-filled with characters but most of them are, and I defy you to say the others lack personality. Suffice it to say, if you’re like me and spend unnecessarily long amounts of time just examining every square foot of environments in games, Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective will provide you with that in spades and spades. 

There’s no shortage of talent in the audio department either: the background sounds of the crowds decently reflect what’s shown on screen and the music is fantastic from beginning to end. Each of the 10 levels has its own signature track, each designed specifically around the theme of the level, and all of them are very lively and enjoyable, a few of them even unnecessarily great. From the lively music in the Museum to the slower, melancholic tune in the Southern Castle, to the fantasy flute-and-lute tune in the Magic Forest to the fun spooky track in the Haunted Manor (probably my favorite one), etc. the tracks vary in style but never in quality – they’re always superb. I would legit love for them to be on Spotify. 


Mazes That Reward Exploration

The gameplay is solid as well, but don’t expect much in the form of complexity. It is pretty casual for the most part, which, considering the target audience, makes sense. As you might have expected, it involves solving mazes: the aim is to find Mr. X in each of the levels before he ultimately escapes to the next one. All of the levels are mazes but vary widely in complexity – most of them are pretty simple while others, fairly complex. 

Though this might seem like it’d get old quickly, there are a couple of clever twists on the formula that are implemented that keeps the gameplay fresh and fun. One of the mazes changes the perspective from overhead to a side-scroller for example and in another level the maze shifts as you progress through it providing, in effect, a collection of slightly different mazes in one. 

Each level also has a mini-game/puzzle in it which does keep things interesting – one has a memory game for example, while another involves popping captive birds out of their bubbles with a kite, and yet another that has a QTE balloon blowing contest. These, along with the characters you can interact with – some you can talk to, others just react to you a la Hidden Folks – and just the wealth of fun things to look at, make Labyrinth City a joy to play through despite the somewhat simplistic gameplay. 

The game is also much more humorous than I expected and had me nose-exhaling on multiple occasions, never mind the permanent smile that I had throughout just out of pure delight. There are also numerous fun references from Metal Gear Solid to Rick and Morty to Dragon Ball Z which are sure to delight fans when encountered. 

Either way, even if Labyrinth City didn’t bother to do any of this, I’d argue that the variety of levels and the charm of it all are more than enough to keep you interested until the end of the fairly short runtime – it took me 4.5 hours to finish it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people get through it in 3. This playtime can, however, be extended if you’re a collectible-oriented person – there are 3 stars, 4 Mr. X notebook pages, and 4 chests to find in each level, which is a solid amount of side content to pursue.

This collectible element however does make the maze-solving gameplay of Labyrinth City sort of paradoxical as you’ll have to explore all the paths of a maze to find all the collectibles. A maze game that rewards exploration and doesn’t punish running into dead ends is something I haven’t encountered before, to be honest, but hey, it works. 

Real Talk

Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective is a wonderful game that I have no problem highly recommending to everyone – especially those who have kids, but also for those who just want to be reminded what it was like to be one or at the very least, those who just want some casual, light-hearted fun. Each level bursts with charm and good humor and is a true treat for your eyes and ears, and the voice-acting and presentation are excellent as well. 

If you’re a jaded, cynical husk of what you used to be as a child – full of awe, wonder, and a magical enthusiasm for life, Labyrinth City could well, even be therapeutic for you as it was for me. Either way, I can’t imagine you being disappointed – if this doesn’t put a smile on your face, well my friend, you might just be too far gone.

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