I’ve always known that you shouldn’t judge a book
by its cover. Now I know that you shouldn’t judge a game by the
first half hour of gameplay. Lesson learned by taking time in The
Labyrinth of Time.
The Labyrinth of Time was originally released in 1993, and has
been recently re-released with enhancements to the music and updates
that allow the game to be played in the most recent versions of
Windows, Mac OS and Linux.
Labyrinth’s graphics and interface instantly declare the game’s
age. The graphics in full screen are grainy, and the only way to
sharpen them up is to play the game in a smaller screen -- about
half the viewing area of the monitor. Manually setting the display
resolution at 640 x 480 does not improve the quality of the
As for the mouse driven interface, you can’t just click on
directional arrows within the screen to move about the game world –
you must click on directional arrows within the toolbar.
Alternatively, it is possible to play the game using the keyboard
for navigation. I experimented with the keyboard at first, but
found it even more difficult than using the toolbar arrows. The
toolbar is also crowded with functions for taking, moving,
opening/closing, and viewing things. If you’ve seen the streamlined
interfaces used in more recent games, this one seems downright
I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your (inter)Face
Strangely, though, as I got used to the interface, the game began
to meander its way into my good graces. This occurred partly
because of the many beautiful places to explore, partly because the
writing in the game is unusually funny, and partly because the
overall gaming experience is different and memorable.
The Labyrinth of Time -- which is played from the first person
perspective -- begins on a grey morning in a nameless city. Your
life consists of a dreary slog by subway to a boring job, then
slogging back home to sleep. Repeat.
Suddenly, a bit of color enters the monochromatic world. A
phantom from the past slips through the space/time continuum and
pulls you into another dimension. Your rescuer/task master is
Daedalus, he who built the Labyrinth of the Minotaur and then
escaped it on handcrafted wings. Daedalus is once again a slave to
King Minos, who is forcing him to design and build a new,
fantastical labyrinth. This labyrinth will allow Minos to
simultaneously enter multiple points in human history with the idea
of conquering the world. There is only one way to stop Minos –
destroy the labyrinth. And there’s only one person that Daedalus
has been able to reach who just might complete the job – YOU!
If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going
You'll Probably End Up Somewhere Else
You leave the subway and find yourself suddenly in a hotel,
literally in the middle of nowhere. These bizarre shifts occur
frequently as the labyrinth intersects key moments in the future and
the past. The surreal becomes almost commonplace as you turn and
twist your way through time.
There are four mazes in Labyrinth, but the three largest are not
traditional mazes. That is, you can always refer to the map and see
where you are in order to find your way out. The function of these
mazes is not to get you lost. They are designed to disorient you –
you become acclimated to one place, only to find yourself in the
heart of someplace completely different.
London Bridge is Falling Down (It’s All My Fault)
The puzzles in Labyrinth are mostly inventory based. Given the
oddities of the locations you visit, the contents of the inventory
are unusually eclectic. Before long you’ll find yourself carrying
(among other things) a glitzy alien belt, a loose screw, a carved
falcon, a Colt .45, a labrys, a bicycle pump, and an assortment of
keys. These can be used on hotspots in the game, sometimes sensibly
and sometimes not -- though even the nonsensical uses display a
There are also a handful of mechanical puzzles. Since the entire
labyrinth is interconnected (sometimes in ways that are less than
obvious), a lever pulled in one reality affects things in another
time and place. This means that the mechanical puzzles require a
great deal of back-and-forthing as you strive to figure out what
RE-action is the result of your action. (There is a “virtual
breadcrumb” feature to speed things up, but I was only able to get
it to work part of the time.)
Most of the back-and-forthing is enjoyable, as the environs are
colorful and compelling. By the end of the game, however, while
preparing to tighten the screws on Minos, you do traverse the
funhouse mirror maze many, many, many times. So many times that you
may feel like breaking a few mirrors on your way (despite the
requisite seven years bad luck – a mere eyeblink in the labyrinth).
There is very little voice acting in the game – virtually all
communication, description and story-telling is in print. Beautiful
background music plays throughout in one long loop, with varied
themes. The quality and clarity of the music is much improved from
the original version of the game, and is a nice addition to the
overall experience. There are also sound effects in the game,
mostly related to opening, using or otherwise disturbing things.
Morgan the Magician Says You Should Figure it Out Yourself
You will have to do more than pull a few levers and collect
inventory to defeat Minos. You will have to wrap your mind around a
bit of the history that has taken place in each location in order to
understand what’s going on. The game’s backstory is one of its
greatest strengths, but with a caveat. The history is contained in
a journal, a few notes, and in some museum and library entries
sequestered in Space Age archives in a place even Minos can’t
invade. With the way the game flows, most of the history is
presented to the player well before she can understand how it fits
the environments and the challenges of the game. Therefore, I’d
suggest reading everything the first time you stumble across it, and
then, after you’ve been winding your way through the game for a few
hours, go back and read everything again. You’ll understand what is
going on much better if you do this.
The museum and library entries themselves are often hilarious.
You get a pretty good idea of the wacky sensibility that has led to
the creation of the otherworldly labyrinth and its timeless tale.
One reminder of the game’s age: it seems strange, in a place of
such high-tech wonders, that the story is presented entirely in
text, with no videos or cutscenes to heighten the interest or to
help identify relationships and locations.
Go on Till You Come to the End; Then Stop
There are fifteen save slots in Labyrinth. This was exactly the
number I needed.
I discovered three places in Labyrinth where you can hit a dead
end. Two of the dead ends occur early in the game, and give you
immediate hints that you’ve made a big mistake. The last dead end
may send you back to a saved game to find an item that you missed
earlier – annoying, though not disastrous.
The game was stable and ran without a single glitch. You can
play the game straight from the CD, or you can choose to install it
and never have to touch the CD again. I didn’t notice any
difference in performance either way.
As mentioned earlier, there are keyboard commands that can be
used instead of the mouse, or in combination with the mouse. The
most helpful key for me was the “F1” key, which toggles between full
screen and partial screen so you can enjoy the benefits of both.
Also -- and you will only find this little trick in the original
manual -- the “Tab” key can be used to cycle through all hotspots on
the screen. I found this to be handy because the cursor doesn’t
change in any way when you place it over hotspots. (I have it on
very good authority that the original game was created in such a way
as to be playable entirely with the keyboard. Perhaps the mouse was
not yet considered standard equipment.)
Should All Adventure Gamers Play The Labyrinth of Time?
I would suggest adding The Labyrinth of Time to your list of
games to buy if you’ve played older adventure games and enjoyed
them. It can’t compete graphically with recent adventure releases,
and the interface is anything but slick. Still, there’s plenty of
depth in it to enjoy, especially if you are the sort of gamer who
likes to take your time and puzzle things out while roaming through
surreal environments. There’s no other game out there that’s quite
Quick List for The Labyrinth of Time
A re-release of a 1993 classic adventure game. A vast journey
through time, full of unexpected twists and turns. Graphics are
various and lovely, though grainy. Quirky, interesting story. Good
writing. Voice acting is nonexistent except for one emergency
recording. Expect a fair amount of reading. The interface is
overly complicated, reflecting the age of the game.
The game features inventory puzzles and simple mechanical
puzzles. One sliding tile puzzle, one maze in which you can
actually lose yourself. No sound puzzles, unless you count the
No glitches. Mouse control, with the keyboard as an alternative
if you don’t favor the mouse. First person perspective. Fifteen
saved game slots. You can save wherever you want. You can’t die,
though you can dead-end in three places.
You won’t find The Labyrinth of Time in stores. You can purchase
the game over the internet at www.wyrmkeep.com.
Aimed at gamers who are looking for a traditional adventure, but
with an unusual “attitude.”
Final Grade: B
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