In Lapis X Labyrinth, NIS America’s new dungeon crawler coming to PlayStation 4 and Switch on May 28, a totem-like stack of four adorable adventurers dive into dungeons, seeking their fortune. It’s cute and chaotic, until the fever meter fills, at which point it gets even more cute and chaotic. The music changes, the scenery begins to pulse, fireworks go off, and enemies explode into colourful gems when killed. It’s a most rewarding spectacle.
There’s not much story to Lapis X Labyrinth. A small village finds itself strapped for cash, so it hires a party to plunder the dungeons beneath the Golden Forest. Players create a group of four characters from a selection of eight different classes, each with its own unique skills. There are fast and agile hunters, protective shielders, enemy-weakening maids, ranged gunners, healing bishops, spellcasting witches, creepy necromancers, and powerful destroyers.
Once the party is gathered, it’s time to put on our party hats. Within dungeons, the four characters in the party stack up. Basic attacks are the same no matter how the party members are stacked. The character on the bottom of the stack, which players can swap on the fly, controls which special abilities the party uses. If the party needs a magical shield, swap to a witch. If they need healing, put the bishop on the bottom. I tend to keep my shielder on the bottom of my stack, as he has a nice mix of offence and defence, swapping out my witch for heavy hits.
Or at least that’s what I assume I am doing. When the action starts, and it starts abruptly and often, the ensuing chaos can be a bit tough to parse. Here is my party entering a dungeon.
Here they are four seconds later.
It’s anarchy. There is treasure dropping, enemies dying left and right. I am using my special abilities, I think. See all of those numbers? So many numbers. See all the gauges on the top of the screen? Don’t bother looking at those. Don’t even look at the fever meter in the top right. That way, 15 seconds later, when the fireworks start going off, you’re pleasantly surprised.
Damn, it’s satisfying. It reminds me of the celebration at the end of a good match-three puzzle game, or when you complete a round of Peggle and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” rings out. I grin like an idiot every time it happens, and it happens a lot. It goes off four times while I play through the quest in the video below.
There’s a lot to do in the village between quests. Editing and training the party, using the foundry to upgrade items, exchanging treasures for party upgrades, and visiting the lunch counter for stat-enhancing snacks are all worthwhile ways to come down off that fever-mode high.
But fever mode is always there, waiting to make one of Lapis X Labyrinth’s colourful dungeons even more so, blinding me with gems and filling my screen with flashing lights. Such an exquisite calling, it would be rude to ignore it.