“Mindless” combat-intensive games such as Streets of Rage or the Dynasty Warriors series are controversial, but I personally find these kinds of games pretty enjoyable for the most part. The Streets of Rage games are actually pretty well-designed; and as for Dynasty Warriors, few other titles can deliver the same level of satisfaction that these Musou games do. Now, Lapis x Labyrinth combines the essence of the two franchises to create a nice hack-and-slash experience with a bit of RPG sprinkled on top.

The game is by no means perfect as there are several problems including some technical issues and a lack of a meaningful story. However, Lapis x Labyrinth is still one of the most over-the-top games I’ve played that could also pass for an interesting RPG.

Lapis x Labyrinth Gameplay Trailer

The story couldn’t be simpler:  Basically you have to explore a mysterious labyrinth located near a forgotten town, that’s it. As you get through the levels, new characters and shops will appear, granting you access to new upgrades. While this does give a clear sense of progression, it does very little in pushing the story forward. No character – NPC or playable – are particularly memorable, and by level 3 or 4 you’ll probably find yourself picking missions and customizing your team through the menu instead of walking around the town.

While the characters and story might be lackluster, the designs deserve praises. The chibi art style is incredibly adorable, and every character and enemy has a distinct design. Moreover, while the levels do get a bit repetitive when it comes to layout – mostly falling into the same maze-like design trappings - the backgrounds are lively, giving a unique feeling to each area which is further bolstered by the well-done soundtrack.

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A cute chibi art style

All of these aesthetics serve to support the repetitive gameplay loop, which, of course, is the main dish here. You’ll have several classes to choose from, and sure enough, each of them possesses unique weapons and skills. You can build a team of maximum 4 members to take on your adventure, but unlike most other RPGs where these characters fight side by side, in Lapis x Labyrinth, they will actually stack on top of one another to create a tower. The leader – which you will directly control – is at the bottom and will be the one who takes the damage inflicted by enemies.

That said, the other members of the team will still contribute to the fight with their special attacks. Moreover, you can change the leader at any moment. This system allows you to make decisions on the fly, ensuring that every run is different, even when the levels are the same.

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The team members will contribute to the fight with their special attacks

Speaking of levels, the ones in Lapis x Labyrinth are divided into many missions, which you can choose to redo in any order whenever you want. Basically, in each mission, your task is to get to the bottom of the stage and defeat the boss. Along the way, though, you will need to find and activate certain switches to unlock the gate to the next level.

Of course, you can always take your time to collect every treasure in each level, and like any other RPG, Lapis x Labyrinth does put a focus on loot and money. Every time you open a treasure chest or defeat an enemy, you’ll earn some kind of reward. Killing multiple enemies in a short span of time will also build up Treasure Points, and once you’ve accumulated enough of these Points, you’ll unlock the Fever Mode.

Remember when I said earlier that this is one of the most over-the-top games I’ve played? This Fever Mode is what I was talking about. Once you meet the requirements, this mode activates automatically and every enemy you kill while in this state explodes into a shower of gems that your character automatically pick up.  This combined with the smooth animations and legions of enemies means you are in for some insanely chaotic visual effects. Having the Fever Mode activated as much as possible will net you a higher mission ranking as well.

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In Fever mode, enemies killed explore in a shower of gems

The main issue with “mindless” hack-and-slash games is that they quickly get repetitive. Lapis x Labyrinth combats this by adding the option to customize your party as well as flashy attacks animations and visual effects. It works for the most part, but only until the late game. These final levels feel like they’re just there to drag out the game as they include things like instant-kill traps and poison that are extremely frustrating to deal with.

While these traps might have been intended as a way to provide more challenge and variety, in reality, all they do is killing the pacing of the game. Getting killed frequently means you have to retry the level over and over again, which falls into the very trap that the game is trying to avoid: Repetitiveness. After about 10 hours into the game, you’ll most likely find yourself more annoyed than entertained.

Lapis Level
The levels do get repetitive after a while

This barrier also shows that PS4 is not exactly the ideal platform for Lapis x Labyrinth. There is no difference in term of content between platform, and the game still offers tons of fun. However, its setup is undoubtedly friendlier for handheld devices.

Moreover, the PS4 version seems to have a few technical problems. You might encounter FPS drop at some points during the game, not during the flashy moments in combat, but when the game tries to load a large area or too many enemies. Moreover, your characters tend to yell a lot when attack, which makes sense in term of aesthetic, but it also makes it hard for you to hear the audio cue when you get hit. This is more important than you might think, as when the screen is full of special effects, this sound is basically the only thing that lets you know you just got hit. These issues don’t break the game by any means, but they do blemish an otherwise smooth experience.

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The PS4 version does have some hiccups here and there

Still, despite its various flaws, Lapis x Labyrinth is an addicting experience all things considered. The combat is indeed flashy and satisfying, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. In the end, it’s the fun RPG elements with tons of customization that will make you want to stick around for more.  Even if you don’t like repetitive games in general, as long as you can appreciate an entertaining RPG, Lapis x Labyrinth is something worth looking into.