LAPIS X LABYRINTH / DEVELOPER & PUBLISHER: NIPPON ICHI SOFTWARE / PLATFORM: PLAYSTATION 4, SWITCH / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
With very little story to speak of, Lapis x Labyrinth throws players into the action pretty much immediately. By choosing a group of four adventurers from a pool of eight, your task is to bring a small village back from the brink of bankruptcy by diving into the nearby dungeons and bringing back as much treasure as you can get your hands on.
Your chosen characters stack up on top of each others' heads in a totem pole formation, with the bottom hero being the leader (ie. the one whose attacks you use) and the top being in charge of special abilities. They're a pretty diverse bunch, from the Maid who whacks enemies with a frying pan to the tank-like Shielder, the magical Witch and Necromancer, and beyond. Experimenting with combinations of characters is part of the fun, and you can change the order of your party at any time inside the dungeons. You can only swap out to entirely different characters in the game's main hub area, though.
Once inside these compact labyrinthine dungeons, combat is as simple as mashing a single button or, occasionally, a button and a direction to perform a stronger attack. There are all manner of beasts and monsters to smash your way through, and defeating a certain amount of them will trigger the game's ace card, Fever Time. The music goes all hyperactive Saturday morning cartoon show, bells ring, and jewels and gems start flying all over the place. This is really what you're aiming for, as it's where you score the really big points, and it's so enjoyable that you'll be wanting to make it happen as often as possible!
At the end of each level you're given a few chests to open, containing new equippable gear, and defeating each dungeon's main boss unlocks a new shop in the village. Eventually you'll be able to buy and sell items and upgrades, purchase stat-enhancing meals, recruit additional characters and more besides. There's an awful lot going on, but it's never overwhelming.
It might not be one of those games you'll sit down and play for hours on end, but each level's five minute time limit lends itself well to short bursts here and there. Fever Time makes for an immensely enjoyable reward, and it really makes Lapis x Labyrinth shine overall. One thing we would say is that the trailer really doesn't do it justice - check out some gameplay footage on YouTube to get a better idea of what to expect. A wonderfully fun game indeed!