Labyrinth of Time logo CD32 Amiga Computing Gamer Gold

Another purpose-built CD32 game's about to come crashing into your shops, but only as long as you can find your way through...

Now, before you jump to all the wrong conclusions let me reassure you. Labyrinth has nothing to do with the film of the same name. There's no crooning thin white duke with a pair of clip-on ears and there's no Muppets with Franz Oz's arm stuffed up their rear portion. Labyrinth Of Time, to use its full title, is like nothing ever to grace the pages of this magazine before.

Converted from the PC by American programmers Electronic Arts, Labyrinth is strictly for the CD32. The main reason for this is the fact that the 3D images and locations you visit in this adventure title are all rendered using 256-colour ray tracing techniques. Before I go any further it's got to be said that the visual aspects of this piece of software are quite literally breathtaking. As far as a game goes these are the best graphics this reviewer has ever seen on an Amiga.

However, being the suspicious pessimistic type, and having seen software before that has had superb graphics but absolutely no depth or playability, judgement remained skeptical until a later point.

The story starts as you make your way home from work. This seems a very depressing point to start an adventure, but I suppose at least it doesn't start before work on a wet Monday morning. Leaving your office, you head through the normal motions and slip into auto-pilot as you wait for your subway train. As usual its late and when you do finally board the train you are given over to a strange sensation.

No, it's not fair dodging or some sicko trying to molest you, it's something different altogether. The next thing that you see is a stranger in very odd attire. It's at this point that you'll need to do some swolting on your Greek mythology, because among this, ancient Mayan culture and the Wild West, the story revolves.

But, mythology first, because the stranger is none other than that famous personality from Greek mythology, Daedalus. Who? I hear scream, Daedalus. Never heard of him? Well, for those of you don't know, and I have to confess he wasn't on my Christmas card list, Daedalus is the person who created the maze on Crete for King Minos.

Although he is long since dead, Daedalus is a prisoner of the king and is being force to construct a new maze which intertwines itself through the fabric of time - heavy stuff hey kids?

Daedalus goes on to tell you that King Minos is the ruler in the land of the dead, and it is his intention to return from the dead to rule over mortals once more. To achieve this unpleasant ambition Minos intends to use the labyrinth's power to reach any place and time in history. Unfortunately for Daedalus he is powerless to do anything to prevent the naughty King from achieving this goal.

This is where you come in. You must help Daedalus and stop the labyrinth's completion by destroying it. Well, beats the boredom and monotony of the old nine to five rut I suppose. So there you are in a subway-train with two exits and a massive 275 plus locations to explore.

Labyrinth must be the most psychedelic game I have ever had the good fortune to see. Not only in its artistic style, but also in the mystical plot it centers itself on and the surreal nature of the locations you visit. We can only speculate on the minds of the programmers who conceived Labyrinth and hazard a shrewd guess that they are arcane remnants of the late 60s who had that little bit too much LSD and now reside in an acid casualty ward.

For example, one moment you are walking through the lobby of an old 19th Century hotel and the next you're in a medieval maze or a cinema lounge. But all this pales into insignificance when you step into the realm of the surreal maze - acid flashback or what?

Labyrinth uses a point-and-click technique to explore the locations. At the bottom of the screen are a set of icons which are responsible for your actions. For instance you can examine items, open and close things and take and move things.

It's reminiscent of the very old school of adventure games which rather than using a party of cliched adventures, use you as the principle character and display your view on the screen. Because of the fact that Labyrinth uses you as the hero rather than a strapping band of do-gooders, there are less controls and statistics to be concerned, or rather confused about.

I have to say at this point that I found Labyrinth totally engrossing and the most involving title that I've had the good fortune to get my hands on. This surprises me to a certain extent as I never thought that this type of title could titillate me as much as it has. One of the main reasons for this is the unusual nature of the plot and some of the bizarre locations that you have to visit. The other thing that strikes you is the fact that there is little or no violence in it at all. In fact, thus far I've not encountered any nasties at all. This is quite refreshing as most adventures cram as many naff skeletons and dumb orcs in to them as possible.

One of Labyrinth's strengths is its story. At the beginning you know very little, but as you progress the plot develops in a very exciting but natural way. This is very cleverly manufactured and adds depth to the play, as the titbits you uncover acts as clues to the solving of the maze.

Also, the puzzles are extremely odd but well thought out and have a nice feel of surreal common-sense about them. At this point an example would be extremely convenient, but I know it would ruin the satisfaction you'll get when you solve them for yourself - honest it's not a lame excuse to cover up for the fact that I didn't solve any.

Graphically Labyrinth is unsurpassable, it just looks the dog's conkers and it's full of nice graphical touches. One such touch within Labyrinth is the fact that you can examine objects by zooming in close on them, revealing them in their full ray-traced glory.

Most of the haunting nature that is captured within Labyrinth is down to the sound track. It's a combination of ambient tunes and the Scotty Doo music, but it works to great effect and really helps generate that all important atmosphere that normally is missed in most games. There are also a great deal of sound effects involved, with the music Labyrinth boasts over 25Mb, even down to the sound of a toilet fusing - don't ask.

The bottom line is that Labyrinth is a superb addition to the adventure genre. It has amazing stylized graphics and a level of depth and playability seldom found in computer games these days. It's great news for punters who've put faith in Commodore and bought themselves a CD32, because this is a title which starts to truly show a little of the machine's capability.

If you own a CD32 I urge you to get down to your local computer emporium and buy this engrossing title, it'll have you grinning from ear to ear in no time.

Labyrinth of Time logo CD32

Let us start off on a positive note for a change. The music is great. Very good. Without sounding too pretentious (all right, it will, but what the hell), the in-game music veers between Tangerine Dream with the occasional burst of Stravinsky with bits of Psycho piled in for effect. And very moody it is too. Until you realise that the music bears no relevance to the situations you find yourself in during the game. Shame, what with all that CD storage space sitting there just gagging to be used.

The other downside to this is that you can find yourself wandering about a perfectly innocent mirror maze when the sound wells up to almost Jaws-like proportions as you... ulp... turn a corner and... ulp, ulp... keep walking along a bit. It gives false clues and this interferes with the gameplay.

Universal takeover
Right, so what is the game about then? Quick rundown. Yu are on a subway station. You are wrenched into another world by Daedulus (the chap who created the maze that held the Minotaur). King Minos has forced him to build a trans-dimensional and trans-temporal maze in order to take over the universe.

For some unexplained reason, you are the only person who can save civilisation as we know it. You get the picture? From now on you explore the maze, go to strange and diverse times and places, solve puzzles and generally attempt to save the known universe... and so on and so forth. It's pure Americana, student Americana with cultural references dropped in willy-nilly.

So much for the plot, which I am sure has been seen on Dr Who or Star Trek or Twilight Zone or Sesame Street. Now for the control system.

It's dated. You use a mouse and not the CD32 controller. Hired Guns, Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder do it better. For example, you cannot walk backwards in Labyrinth, and you cannot turn on your heel. This gives the whole affair a rather dated and jerky feel.

You even get ancient Dungeons and Dragons messages such as 'you can't go that way' as if this was a text adventure. Sad really, that with all the wonders that CD offers, we are still stuck with this old hat.

Clicking irritating
There are even some annoying game inconsistencies such as being told that you have to open something (for example a mining cart) before you can continue. So you click on the cart, and are then told 'You can't open that!'. Very irritating. If there is one thing that can destroy an adventure game, it is this kind of inconsistent game planning.

But let us finish on an up note. This game is incredible to look at. Fabulous. The programmers have spent a great deal of time creating ray-traced images and backgrounds within which the game is played out. If you really want to impress your friends with the wonderful capabilities of your brand-spanking new CD32, then get this game. Don't ask them to play it, though.

Labyrinth of Time logo CD32

Zeit für CD: Electronic Arts' erstes Adventure für das CD32 kommt vom CD-ROM der PCs und läuft auch auf dem CDTV oder sogar einem 500er mit CD-Laufwerk am SCSI-Port. Die Frage ist, nur, wohin es läuft?

Nun, vermutlich in die wohlverdienten Vergessenheit. Aber gemach, ziehen wir uns erst mal die abstruse Story rein: Der böse König Minos zwingt seinen Architekten, ein (historisch gesehen zweites) Labyrinth zu bauen, mit dessen Hilfe er Raum und Zeit manipulieren kann.

Doch der bedrängte Baumeister durchschaut die finsteren Welteroberungspläne und saugt im schicken Intro kurzerhand einen harmlosen U-Bahnfahrgast durch ein Dimensionstor, um Hilfe zu erlangen. Der darf nun in diversen Epochen nach einem zur Zerstörung des Labyrinths benötigten Gegenstand fahnden...

Die Suche gestaltet sich wie eine (per Pad menügesteuerte) 3D-Kamerafahrt durch sehenswerte Raytracing-Bilder, wobei vom antiken Tempel über den Wilden Westen bis zur Raumstation der 21. Jahrhunderts alle Lokations mit ebenso dramatischer wie psychedelischer Musik unterlegt sind.

Unterwegs taucht ab und an mal ein Item auf, das an anderer Stelle richtig einzusetzen ist, es müssen Knöpfe gedrückt, Schlüssel zu Schränken oder Türen gefunden und ein paar sehr hausbackene Puzzles (etwa Zahlenschieberätsel) geknackt werden. Fünf Spielstände können abgespeichert werden, und um sich im Dimensions-Labyrinth der Zeitzonen nicht zu verirren, gibt es Automapping.

Bloß Spielspaß und Abwechslung, so was gibt es hier kaum. Daß die Raytracing-Optik zwar Eindruck schindet, auf Dauer jedoch eine arg unterkühlte Stimmung produziert, ließ sich ja noch verschmerzen, der Mangel an Action für den einsamen Zeitreisenden hingegen nicht. Kurzum, ein langweiliger Grafikblender für CD-Freaks. (ms)

Labyrinth of Time logo CD32

'This is as strange a maze as ere men trod.' Or something like that, anyway.

There's a scene in the top teen comedy Ferris Bueller's Day Off where Ferris is telling the audience about where his friend Cameron lives. I can't remember the exact wording, but it's something along the lines of "It's very beautiful, and very cold, and you're not allowed to to touch anything," which is oddly fitting to The Labyrinth Of Time. Sure, it looks fantastic, but if you try and play it, you'll find a cold hearted little beast.

Being an adventure, there's absolutely no getting away from going into the stupid story line, so here we go. You start off as just another sad commuter with a dull job and a dull life. This monologue of the drabness of contemporary urban existence is portrayed in a series of black and white photos, but the, as they're fond of saying in comic books - It happens!

Unfortunately for you, it turns out to be nothing very exciting at all, just a text box telling you that it "feels like you've been pulled in a direction you never knew existed," so instead of getting that feeling you've been wrenched into an alternative reality, it's as exciting as bumping your head on one of those little bobbly things that hangs from the roofs of tube trains.

The main difference to your view is that everything is now in wonderfully rendered, ray-traced and texture mapped 3D computer graphics, a change that's explained by some computer generated guy. He's the spirit of some dead Greek dude, who's been forced to construct a maze that will cause the end of all humanity, indeed, the entire known universe. Or something.

The thing about this start is that it's instantly low-key, so you're reading that the world's going to end, but all you're looking at is the inside of a subway train. It hardly fills you with a sense of urgency and danger, and that's how you feel for the rest of the game. The world's ending, huh? Okay, just let me get my coat, I'' be with you in a minute.

Pulled in a direction you never knew existed

You move around by clicking on arrows, but since the view just jumps from one glorious still picture to the next, it seems like you're looking at someone's holiday snaps. Here's one of the aging lobby, there's the art deco cinema, on the left's a wild west town and here's a palace of ice floating in the sky. Hmm, great.

The fact that it's all computer graphics makes everything look sterile, a feeling that's highlighted by the complete lack of anything to do. If found that I could pull the chain on a toilet and open the laundry chute, but that I couldn't look down it, and when I put my only possession (a 25 cent coin) into a slot machine, it just told me that I'd wasted my money. Is that supposed to be funny?

The game boasts 275 locations and 180 images, and plays on both the CD32 and CDTV, but it's just too dull. Trudging round empty mazes was popular about a decade ago, and adding flashy graphics to this limp formula isn't fooling anyone.

The only thing that's exciting about this is that it shows you what the CD32's capable of in terms of graphics and CD sound, so if you're a shop owner, it's probably worth sticking this on in your window to attract passing trade. My advice to everyone else is to wait until they include some kind of gameplay into this sort of flashy package.

Labyrinth of Time logo CD32

The CD32's first straight PC adventure conversion looks stunning, but does that hold true for the gameplay? Mark Patterson finds out.

With many of us, including me, still waiting to be really impressed by the CD32, I was keeping my fingers crossed that this would be the game to do it. I'd seen pics of the PC version and as this is supposed to be a direct port I was holding out for something special.

I did not get off to a good start though. On the box it says it is compatible with all Amigas, including CDTV and 1 Mb machines with a CD drive. I'm offended, this seems to be a lie as - my poor old CDTV seized up at the first sniff of this game and, in fact, the only machine it will run on is the CD32. Which is not surprising when you look at the graphics.

The game's plot is a little bizarre, and is probably the produce of too many late nights and one too many, er, coffees. Daedalos, the bloke who designed the original Labyrinth for king Minos to hide his half-bull son from the clutches of the evil Ronaldium McDonaldus, has made a comeback. Being a bit of a clever brick, Daedalos' latest creation spans space-time to encompass all kinds of weird dimensions.

Once it was completed he decided to try it out by popping over to our reality, kidnapping a junior accountant from 9:15 Luton to Kings Cross and dumping him right in his maze. He then proceeded to tell his bewildered and slightly travel sick captive that his only chance of escaping was to find the secret of the maze and destroy it.

As a PC CD-ROM conversion this is perfect, but then I didn't expect anything less. The 256-colour graphics are stunning, easily the best seen in an Amiga adventure. I don't know if it's my eyes packing in after staring at high-radiation Mac monitors for so long, but I swear the graphics flicker not as bad as the Amiga in HAM mode, but there's a noticeable twitch there all the same.

But what really wound me up was the lack of action. Here you have all these lovely static screens, but with nothing happening on them. Once in a while a door might open, a you encounter Daedalos who does a great Captain Scarlet impression as he waves his arms around, but for the most part you are just looking at pretty pictures.

The CD32 is also a bit slow when it comes to accessing the graphics. Rather than show a transition between two locations, you have to wait a couple of seconds for the next screen to be loaded in. I mean, a little bit of animation as you walked down a corridor would have made a big difference. It can be very annoying when you've got to go through several locations in quick succession you wait for each one to be loaded in individually. Still, the screens are nice though...

For all its visual excellence, Labyrinth's playability has all the attraction of a decomposed corpse after a two-week swim in the Thames. The gameplay is quite loose, letting you travel to loads of locations without having to actually kick your brain into gear. When you decide to actually stop gawping at the graphics and start thinking about escaping from the Labyrinth, you find out just how weak the gameplay really is.

Puzzle solving is a simple case of trial and error. Which key fits which door? Will Object A release Object B so I can get through this door to solve even more similar puzzles? As the game contains somewhere in the region of 280 screens, it can take a fair while to solve even the most rudimentary problem, leaving you time to count the number of steps backwards the Labyrinth's programmers have taken when compared to recent games.

This is hindered by the lack of a decent user-interface. You have only got a few rudimentary commands at your disposal, such as pick up and drop, which severely limits the ways you can try and solve puzzles.

I don't want to rant, but old-fashioned text interface adventures offered far more scope for gameplay than this. And now with the trend of interactive characters and backdrops in games like Indiana Jones and most Sierra adventures, Labyrinth seems pathetically inadequate.

The real challenge behind the game is escaping from the labyrinth, which is quite a feat considering its size. Normally this would involve several yards of graph paper, a few pencils and an eraser, but for some strange reason the programmers have decided to include an auto-map feature. I am the first to admit that is it far more practical, especially for someone like me whose writing has to be read within four hours or be forever illegible, but it does seem to defeat the object of the game slightly.

Every time you enter a new location the map is updated, so it is almost impossible to get lost. Combine that with the rather rudimentary puzzle solving and you get the impression that completing the game is matter of persistence over real adventuring skill.

If companies are going to do direct PC to CD32 conversions, why don't they choose good games? The forthcoming CD32 version of Simon The Sorcerer promises to be a significant event in Compact Disc adventures, but in the meantime I would not say no to conversions of excellent PC titles like Sam And Max and Day Of The Tentacle.

Don't be taken in by the pretty graphics and the promise of PC-style adventuring. Labyrinth Of Time may be like my milkman, slow, crusty and rarely delivers, but if you are an adventure-starved CD32 owner with cash to burn, you might want to overlook the faults, in which case you get a passable, if not that challenging, slice of surreal role-playing.

Life can be confusing in the Labyrinth, and a little scary for the weak-bladdered. Here is a taster of life on the other side...

Labyrinth of Time
There you where, standing on platform four at Kings Cross, when all of a sudden, wham! Some 3000 year-old Greek geezer grabs you by throat and whisks you off to his maze.

Labyrinth of Time
See the clown? Scary, isn't he? However, all the atmosphere is ruined by the completely rubbish digitised laughter he emits. You will definitely turn the volume down when you hear it.

Labyrinth of Time
Explore a bit further and you will find yourself in a mirror maze. This is obviously the section where the artists were a bit bored, as most of the screens look the same. What a rip-off.

Labyrinth of Time
You are making some progress now, there is just another 275 screens to go. It is worth sticking with at as the graphics later on are just totally amazing.