The folks at NIS America have released tons of wacky games over the years and their latest has you stack party members on your way to master crazy monster-filled dungeons.
Lapis x Labyrinth doesn't have much of a story. You basically create your own party of adventurers then raid dungeons in order to acquire treasures and cash with the hopes of helping a struggling small town flourish in the face of adversity. The core gameplay is purely 2D where you traverse sprawling dungeons while battling foes via button mashing and unleashing the odd special move. The most unique aspect is the fact that your party is stacked vertically on top of each other like a totem pole and the character at the bottom does all the attacking. However, you can rotate your party with the tap of a button so consistently switching up your active combatant keeps the combat somewhat fresh. In the end, running and jumping while hacking and slashing away is immediately gratifying stuff.
Some minor complexities to the gameplay include the ability to jump multiple times in a row depending on how many characters are currently stacked, unleash a powerful attack with your whole party, and spend rechargeable magic points to perform quick special moves with your reserve characters. You also have a treasure combo meter that's satisfying to watch grow as you fight and collect goodies as well as fever mode which allows you to collect even more points as fireworks go off in the background. All of this culminates in the end screen of each mission where you can see your score and grade as well as claim some hard-earned treasures for your party.
Speaking of treating your party, your home base allows you to customize your party by changing their class (hunter, necromancer, shielder, maid, gunner, witch, destroyer, and bishop), buying lunch which allows you to heal and receive bonuses, purchasing permanent upgrades and boosts, enhancing equipment pieces, and more. This home area grows as you complete more missions and it's rewarding to gradually watch more customization options open up to you as you meet additional helpful characters.
On a presentational level, Lapis x Labyrinth's graphics are adorable with lovely hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds. Even when combat becomes visually chaotic to the point where it's hard to tell what's going on; the graphics still pop in a very flashy and arcade-like way which is a treat to watch. What also feels arcade-like is the music which seems to be lifted from an upbeat '90s arcade game with its bubbly synthesizes. This energetic soundtrack blends with the high-pitched Japanese voices to make one cute soundscape.
On the downside, Lapis x Labyrinth is an undeniably simple game and its combat becomes very mindless after playing it for a couple of hours. Unfortunately, it doesn't get better or more involving as you play either. In fact, I found myself having to grind starting at Quest Level 3. Considering there are 10 Quest Levels, you can imagine how much grinding you'd have to do in order to merely complete the campaign. Finally, even though your home base grows as you play, it just feels like more stuff is added into the equation instead of more variety which would have been greatly appreciated because as it is, Lapis x Labyrinth is an extremely repetitive game.
If you want a simple 2D hack and slash action RPG then Lapis x Labyrinth is definitely a good game to wind down with after a long day. Just don't expect it to be particularly engaging, especially once the repetition starts to sink in.
- + Simple, satisfying, and intuitive combat
- + Rewarding treasure system and party customization mechanics
- + Cute visuals and fun arcade-style music
- - Combat is ultimately rather mindless
- - Grinding eventually becomes necessary
- - Could generally use much more variety