Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective is the first video game adaptation of the Pierre the Maze Detective series of children’s books. So it shouldn’t be a big surprise that the game is suited best for children. Developed by Darjeeling Productions, and published by Pixmain Games, the game allows players to explore mazes taken right from the pages of the books. As an adult, the gameplay was a bit dull, but it’s an experience I would recommend for any child who likes solving puzzles.
Story – A Chase Through a Puzzling World
Our story begins when Pierre, the renowned maze detective, learns of the theft of a precious artifact from the local museum. The Maze Stone has gone missing! It has the power to turn any environment into a maze, and the dastardly Mr. X has claimed it as his own. Pierre and his friend Carmen must retrieve the stone. But in this world, that’s easier said than done. We join the pair as they pursue Mr. X across 10 levels of mazes. Through cities, castles, and caverns, the villain is always one step ahead. But Pierre doesn’t give up easily.
The story is delivered through cutscenes between each level. It feels very much inspired by the game’s literary background, bringing back memories of being read picture books as a child. That device leads to the gameplay feeling very separated from the plot. While exploring the mazes does offer plenty of character interactions, none of them serve to further the narrative of the game.
As the player, I never felt like what I was doing had any impact on what happened in the story. But somehow, that didn’t bother me. The joy of books like the one that inspired this game is really in the art over the writing. So even though the plot felt underdeveloped, and less important, the gameplay segments bolstered the game enough on their own that it wasn’t much of an issue. Of course, I would have liked a story that served more purpose than transporting us from one maze to another. But I feel that’s all the story was really meant to do. So in that regard, it succeeds.
What can be said about the gameplay of a maze? In this case, quite a bit. The goal of a maze is typically to get from point A to point B. But Pierre doesn’t have the luxury of brevity in his mazes. Each maze in the game begins with an introduction to the environment, and ends with Pierre briefly catching up to Mr. X. But there are a few checkpoints between the two, taking Pierre from points A to D, of course stopping at B and C in between.
The real fun in these mazes though is the chance to explore them from the inside. Each level provides collectibles to hunt for, interesting people to talk to, and a minigame on the way to your destination. These interactions keep the game from getting stale. All the wacky things going on around you help you to stay invested in the world. The game becomes as much about exploring your surroundings as it is about reaching the end of the maze. It’s so fun to see everything going on in this world that you don’t even notice the slow difficulty progression of the mazes. Some of the last levels were even difficult for me as an adult.
There were, however, some gameplay choices that I had to question. For a game with an emphasis on exploration, the navigation surprised me with its rigid structure. Even within the provided walls, you can’t move freely, being instead herded along a strict path. Some choices even seem counterintuitive to the maze based puzzles the game centers around.
The joy in a maze comes from finding your way through on your own while avoiding incorrect paths. Yet here, each maze has purple arrows that stand out from the background guiding you along the right path. And if you want every collectible, it’s better to go the opposite direction than the arrows. They usually lie at the dead ends of wrong paths. While that may seem like a natural hiding place, in a normal maze, those are exactly the areas you’d want to avoid. I understand that the targeted age range of children may benefit from the guiding arrows, but for me, it took most of the fun out of solving the mazes.
Graphics and Audio – Colorful Characters
We have Hiro Kamigaki to thank for the wonderfully vibrant characters and backgrounds that make up each maze. As the artist behind the books, he likewise played a key art role in this game. The mazes may be the center point of the game, but each scene has so much background detail. The world feels so alive thanks to the inventive and colorful visuals. Based on the style in the game, it’s easy to see why the book series is so successful, and I would gladly spend more time in any world that looks like this one.
The audio is equally vibrant. Each level has a different score that expertly fits with the area it takes place in. Some even get multiple tracks based on what area of the map you’re in. The music is very strong and energetic, contributing to the thrill of exploration that comes with the environments. The bedtime story like narration also adds to the charm. The narrator’s voice is incredibly engaging. It fits together with the storybook aesthetic like a piece in a puzzle. However, her narration veers off at times from the subtitles. It threw me off when she said one thing and the subtitles said another.
Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective was reviewed on PC with a key provided by HomeRun PR.