REVIEW : Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective (PC)
Pierre the Maze Detective is a picture book series produced by Japanese artist Hiro Kamigaki and his studio IC4DESIGN; the riddles are reminiscent of Where’s Wally? for its colourful circumstances to the flag of odd tiny creatures, but the puzzle concept is more similar to solving mazes than to discovering things and people. After several successful years, which resulted in the translation of these books into more than 30 languages, including Spanish, this saga has leapt into the video game with an adaptation carried out by the French studio Darjeeling, which is now well-known in the industry despite having already made his first steps with works such as Homo Machina and Californium.
Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective is the result of this international collaboration, a captivating video game that masterfully adapts Kamigaki’s illustrations, making them find their way in this new format and without the need to make a direct translation of the essence of puzzle design while maintaining the studio’s creative and aesthetic vision intact. Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective is now available on PC and will soon be available on Nintendo Switch before making the jump to mobile platforms for iOS and Android devices.
Chasing Mr X
Pierre and Carmen are the two protagonists of Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective, yet we will only control the first during the adventure. These investigators are on a mission to find Mr X, a disguised villain who stole the enigmatic Labyrinth Stone from the Opera City museum. In reality, this is nothing more than a simple narrative excuse to light the fuse of a plot that will serve as the game’s common thread; the grace is that the chase of the evil thief goes through multiple and crazy scenes drawn in detail, from the museum itself to a magical forest or a haunted house.
All of the scenarios are adaptations of the pictures found in the Pierre the Maze Detective books, but rather than simply copying and pasting the original graphics, Darjeeling has done an excellent job of altering them such that the puzzle makes sense inside the interactive format. We control Pierre as he moves through the paths of each labyrinth, something not possible in the books, and together with him we scrutinise every corner looking for the way to the next objective; in the meantime, we can interact with characters and objects of each level, as well as look for alternative routes that allow us to access collectables scattered across the map that are not always easy to find
Own design reinterpreting the original works
You might think that it is simple to take the original illustrations and place them in an interactive environment to fondle like a moving book, as we see in Hidden Folks, but Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective avoids that direct adaptation and reinterprets Hiro Kamigaki’s labyrinths so that they acquire their entity within the video game format. Darjeeling’s understanding of the original work and capture of it in an interactive environment, allowing us to walk through the illustrations without haste, enjoying every detail, and with a very intelligent level design, is certainly commendable and elevates this game beyond just a digital version of the books, making it an interesting work of weight in itself.
Of course, Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective isn’t going to be an open-world exploration game. Because each stage is designed as a labyrinth, we can only wander the streets that have been laid out for this purpose, with a somewhat coarse and too directed control at times. It is not a criticism of the game; in fact, it could be considered one of its greatest strengths: there have been numerous studies that have attempted to launch a fun maze video game, but none of them will likely be able to overcome what this one does with its branched scenarios, impossible shortcuts, and dead ends.
Without attempting to present itself as the biggest obstacle, and in what may appear to be an overly linear game, we will be stopped on more than one time trying to estimate the correct way to the next goal.
Thorough and crazy scenarios full of details
And such confusion is created because of the large profit that its creators have made from IC4DESIGN images; certainly, in Where’s Wally? The horror vacui is used to make it difficult for us to find Wally and his friends, and the same is done here with the correct path: the elements of the scene themselves mislead us so that we cannot find the way forward, even though the main path is marked by arrows and indicators that help us find the answer, and it is in the secondary routes, those that hide the collectables, which can truly be under the table.
In either case, Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective seeks to startle us through the contemplation of the bizarre settings through which we pass. They are stunning drawings full of details, some interactive and some not, that defy logic and surprise us at every turn. The graphics in the scenes are themselves hilarious, but there are additional talks with certain characters that round out the humour, making this game a charming ongoing joke. There is also humour in the player’s communication with us, such as how he has to lead us down certain roads or laugh at rules that he has imposed in prior stages. To this must be added joyful music that transforms each stage into a party, however, it can get a little repetitive at times.