Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth Review

Record of Lodoss War – Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is one of these games where you wonder to yourself, “How is this a game?” I was aware of the Record of Lodoss War anime but never knew that it was originally conceived as a tabletop role-playing game in the ‘80s, using the D&D ruleset. Why did Team Ladybug games make a 2D action-adventure based on this property? It just seems kind of random. Apparently, the publisher Playism was approached by the original creator in the hope of producing a game. Playism is well aware of Team Ladybug’s pedigree for making stylish 2D action platformers, having teamed up with them to produce Touhou Luna Nights, so the choice of developer was easy. To tell you the truth though I wasn’t really concerned about how the game took shape, I was just happy to try out Team Ladybug’s new Metroidvania that looked like it took a great deal of inspiration from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Wonder Labyrinth tells a new story in the Record of Lodoss War universe, filling in the gap between two other events. Fortunately, no knowledge of the Lodoss War series is necessary to enjoy the game, although I’m sure fans of the series will take extra enjoyment seeing familiar characters as well as experiencing the franchise in an alternate medium. You play as Deedlit, a High Elf, and one of the six heroes from the series. The game takes a narrative approach seen in many other games, where the story starts with the heroine waking up in a strange place with no clue as to what is going on. The game has a dreamlike feel throughout, making use of visual effects that make you question if Deedlit is dreaming or not. I found that while sometimes overused in the video game medium, the dream theme worked well here, but overall the story didn’t hook me. That should not be viewed as a knock against the game, however, as I rarely get pulled into video game stories. One other aspect of the game in regards to its overall structure that I thought was different for a Metroidvania game is how it is broken up into multiple chapters. At certain points, you’ll get a brief animation of a dice roll, and then the chapter number and some Japanese writing pop up. I like how you could see the RPG inspiration in moments like this and elsewhere. Also in case you were wondering, you can easily revisit past sections once you reach a new chapter as the game takes place across one big map.

Let’s get into the real reason I played this game; the gameplay. Metroidvanias are easily one of my favorite types of games. Wonder Labyrinth checks off all the main boxes in the Metroidvania department, but to me, it felt kind of cookie-cutter. Pretty much all of the abilities and traversal methods I’ve seen before. You do get a hover ability early on that is sort of unique and it is tied to one of the two spirit familiars that you use to empower your attacks. Team Ladybug is known for interweaving unconventional mechanics into their games. Touhou Luna Nights, also a 2D Metroidvania, makes use of a graze mechanic that refills your health and MP when you get extra close to enemies. It also features time manipulation abilities.

These mechanics are usually seen in the Shoot ‘em up and/or Bullet hell genres. For Wonder Labyrinth, they borrowed the color-switching mechanic popularized in the Shoot ‘em up game Ikaruga, where you can switch colors with the push of a button allowing you to negate attacks of the matching color and damage enemies of the opposite color. I think this is an interesting idea for a Metroidvania; however, due to unclear art design, it can be difficult to know which color you have equipped in the heat of battle; in addition, some enemies and their attacks aren’t color-coded as well as they could be. Each of the spirits has its own meter that fills up as you attack enemies, once it reaches level three (the maximum) you can switch to the other spirit and you will slowly regain health. These mechanics are somewhat interesting, but I’ve encountered similar mechanics in other 2D platformers, so it is nowhere close to being as innovative as the mechanics they implemented in Touhou Luna Nights, which was disappointing.

Deedlit has the look of a ranger thanks to her cloak but she plays more like a combination of multiple classes: Fighter, Ranger, and Mage, due to her variety of attack actions. The game has a wide range of weapons for you to find and use in battle, mostly swords and spears, but they all vary in size and speed, and there are a few other unique weapons like a throwable chakram. I thought this aspect of the game was well done, it added a decent amount of variety to the combat; however as a whole, the combat is extremely bland, you can tank most enemies very easily by bashing the attack button. Some enemies I never even got to witness the attack animations for since I always killed them so quickly (not trying to brag, anyone can mash a button). Many of the boss fights are equally underwhelming, that is until you get to the late game.

Deedlit can also use a bow; like the melee weapons, there is an assortment of bows to find in the game world, each with different properties. The bows can be used in combat, but they also function as a puzzle-solving tool. Some rooms contain blocked passages or spike traps that can only be traversed by shooting your arrow at various targets. Sometimes you might have to ricochet off the ceiling, and other times you might have to hit a gear multiple times to spin the saw blades enough so you are able to shimmy past as they rotate back into place. The final tools you have at your disposal are a number of magic spells. There is a decent variety there, but I found two spells to be much more useful than the rest, and I ended up sticking with those two specific spells almost the entire game. One is a series of magic orbs that home in on the closest enemy and the other a spell that turns you invincible for a few seconds and shoots projectiles at the enemy.

Team Ladybug is known for their sharp, hi-fi pixel art style, which is really a one-of-a-kind aesthetic that makes their games really stand out in a first impression. This is what really drew me to this game, along with the genre. The art is top-notch, especially the characters, enemies, and all of their animations. Some of the environments, however, feel kind of lifeless. Part of the issue I think is that the game takes place almost entirely indoors. A lot of the terrain and layout have a very repetitive feel to it, and while everything looks amazing, the whole thing feels uninspired. The one exception is the little cutscenes and dreamlike special effects I mentioned previously.

For a Metroidvania, the game is on the short side. It took me just over seven hours to get to and defeat the final boss. The game does have a few extra features, such as a boss rush mode (unlocked after beating the game). In addition, there are a number of achievements that will push you to explore the entire game map, get all the items, and complete the bestiary. There are also a couple of unique rooms in the game. One contains a rather in-depth dice gambling game. The other has an archery mini-game where you have to shoot moving targets. The dice game, while impressive in scope, is pretty much only good for getting extra money very quickly, the archery mini-game however, is a nice distraction.

Conclusion

Despite its lacklusterness, it’s hard for me not to recommend Record of Lodoss War – Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth considering that it’s on Game Pass. If you like Metroidvanias, or action platformers, then it’s definitely worth a look. But if you are expecting a top-of-line experience like its inspiration Symphony of the Night, you’ll be disappointed. Wonder Labyrinth checks all the boxes and features some unique Team Ladybug ideas, but nothing about it stands out from the pack. 

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox One review code, using an Xbox One console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • Eye-catching pixel art, characters, enemies, and their animations really stand out
  • Simple menu system that lets you focus on gameplay
  • Soundtrack fits well with the fantasy theme
Bad
  • Lots of weapons to choose from, but combat is underwhelming
  • dual color mechanic is awkward and doesn't feel as fleshed out as the mechanics in their previous game
  • Environment design is repetitive, too many interior spaces
7.1
Good
Gameplay - 6.3
Graphics - 8.9
Audio - 8
Longevity - 5
Written by
I started my gaming odyssey playing 8-bit console and arcade games. My first Xbox was the 360 and I immediately fell in love with achievement hunting and the overall ecosystem. That love was cemented with my purchase of an Xbox One. I play a bit of everything, but I usually end up playing fast paced games that remind me of my days spent in dark, smoky arcades spending quarter after quarter, telling myself "one more try!". Gamertag: Morbid237.

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