Originally an exclusive release on the “super popular” Meganet subscription service in 1990 it took one whole year before Sega decided that was a stupid idea, and released a PAL and US version.
You play an unnamed hero who has agreed to enter a 31 floor Labyrinth to slay the Dragon (Dragonia) that is guarding the “Holy Goblet“.
Fatal Labyrinth is a Rougealike, meaning EVERYTHING is random. There are 31 floors, 3 are always the same (10/30/31) and the rest are played in a random order. It isn’t truly randomised levels, you’ll get the same 28 in different orders, but all the items, and enemies are random.
Every 5th level serves as a checkpoint, so if you die on levels 1-4, it is gameover, die on level 9 and it is back to level 5. If you do die, you go back to the previous checkpoint as you were at that checkpoint. That means you lose any good armour you may have gained, and any items. So you do not get to play from early as some hulking over leveled god.
Similar to Toejam and Earl all the items are unknown when you pick them up. You have to use an item to see what an item does, same with scrolls and equipment, or you can pfind a magic scrill that identifies items. Once you know what it does great, but like TJ&E some items are less than useful. There isn’t anything mean like the “Total Bummer” (instadeath), but some spells are pants.
The controls are weird, the game is grid based and you press the D-Pad towards an enemy to attack them, as well as movement. It takes a little getting used too, because the game is also turn based, so it can feel a little frustrating you jabbing the pad until you get used to the turn based mechanic.
“C” opens the menu, and selects items, press too quickly and you’ll go into the wrong inventory menu. When you press back you reenter combat, and have to go back into the menu, thus wasting your turn. This is a major problem as you’ll inevitably mess up in a panic situation and fail miserably to heal yourself.
“A” checks walls for secret doors, and pick up items. Yeah, there are secret doors… I had to google a walkthrough because I had a hidden door on the first level on my first attempt. It was a bit of a steep learning curve!
“B” closes the menu.
The controls are awkward, but you do get used to them. The only real issue is getting used to pressing buttons slowly, the game WILL wait for you to press the button, the enemies don’t gang rape you if you don’t press the button. So patients is the key young padawan.
This is where Fatal Labyrinth becomes a problem. It is simply too hard. The RNGesus is not your friend, I have had level 9, 14, and 19s where I have started the level with 4-5 super hard enemies surrounding me. I couldn’t escape, and pretty much instantly died. This happened a lot, and the more it happened the less inclined I was to bother playing the game.
As you level up you get more powerful, but the enemies are always a step a head of you. Since you reset to the checkpoint it means you can’t steamroll. If you kill all enemies on a floor and then faff for ages they will respawn, and you can then rekill everything for more experience. Though I only managed to trigger this once and that was the first level looking for the secret door I didn’t know existed.
ONE thing that helps you out is that VERY rarely there will be a trapdoor that sends you down a level. Here you can regrind a floor and a bit, but to be honest both times it happened to me I didn’t get a level up despite clearing two levels twice. So I am not entierly convinced about the levelling system.
The best thing in the game?
You collect gold in the game, and you don’t spend it in shops like a typical RPG. Instead, the more money you have, the more people come to your funeral! Seriously! It is funny as fuck, die with no money and a crappy level, and not even the vicar turns up!
I also enjoyed the fact you can die of gluttony. As you’re on an adventure, you need to eat. Overtime your hunger grows, and if your food level hits 0, you start to lose health. But, eat too much, and get your Food to 80+ you become overweight, and move slowly. Go over 100, you die.
Right, so Fatal Labyrinth is NOT a good game. It is needlessly hard, and it doesn’t have a simple loot mechanic like Diablo does to keep you going. The controls, while you’ll get used to them, suck. The inventory, again, takes getting used to, but sucks.
The random difficulty spikes suck. The fact you can be dropped in instadeath situations, SUCKS.
It is impressive what they have managed to do with the technology though, and the game is suitably dark in tone, but again, the general suckatude ruins any potential positives.
Nothing is “broken” and everything seems to work as intended, but it just isn’t that fun to play. I guess the game is purposefully obtuse, and it runs with the theme, but self awareness doesn’t make a good game. This game will appeal to more hardcore players who like a silly challenge, the rest of you can avoid as ot is simply too hard. There is no save function, and at 2-4 hours for a run is is probably a little too long as frustration sets in after an hour.
Pros: Money pays for friends at your funeral
Cons: Hard, unfair, frustrating, sucks.
Back in the day
i can’t find any reviews for this game. Not even Metacritic has one.