ByteSize Games’s newest outing, Little Labyrinths (out now, $0.99), definitely lives up to the name the company goes by.
In this fast paced arcade styled maze game, you are tasked with drawing a path with your finger to get from point A to point B as fast as you humanly can while staying within the boundaries. If you get through the current maze segment fast enough, a multiplier goes up. This multiplier is the key to racking up a high score, and dropping your multiplier at an inopportune time – by way of a performance even just a split second late – will greatly affect your final score for the entire run. The mazes themselves are procedurally generated so you will never see the same maze twice, although this can also sometimes lead to start and end points on a maze that are ridiculously far apart.
Occasionally spread throughout the maze of the moment will be bonus items: extra time, extra points, and bags of coins. However, one must always think carefully before simply picking up every single item with reckless abandon. You’re not really increasing your score if you pick up a bonus point icon that causes you to spend so much time getting to it that you lose a 7x multiplier in the process, and you will have to make judgment calls like this very fast since the clock is always ticking down towards your next game over.
One problem that will sometimes crop up is that occasionally the game will wig out and the hero will stop following your finger until you move it back to where you lost him. This doesn’t actually seem to be a problem with the game’s programming itself, as can sometimes happen with some touch based games, but rather instead a result of your zeal for winning causing you to inadvertently slip out of bounds in your rush for the goal. I get the feeling that this would be less of an issue if played on the iPad’s larger screen where presumably the boundaries of the maze wall would be much larger than they are on an iPod.
While the game’s icon in the App Store – as well as its title screen – might seem to suggest that it’s primarily about a mouse hunting for cheese, this is where the game’s coins primarily come into play. With the coins you find laying around the track you can unlock new heroes, new locales, and new end maze objectives. Furthermore, while each unlockable is part of an intended matching set, nothing actually forces you to use them together like that. You’re completely free to be things like a mouse in a volcano looking for a princess, or even a pirate looking for cheese in the depths of outer space.
My only complaint in regard to the unlocking system is that some of the later unlockables cost a great deal of coins, which unfortunately seems somewhat intentional seeing as how ByteSize Games will also sell you coins for a nominal fee. However, if you play the game long enough – and you will find yourself wanting to go back time and time again to see if you can go just a little bit farther the next time – then everything is always obtainable purely through picking up the in game currency itself. Furthermore, almost everything in the store that is unlockable is purely for aesthetical reasons and not something you need to have any sort of necessary tactical advantage in the game.
The only two unlockable items that aren’t purely aesthetical are two games modes, and these are mercifully the two cheapest purchases in the entire game store. The three alternate game modes (one of which is unlocked at start) are Zen Mode, Three Minute Mode, and Speed Mode. Three Minute Mode – as the name implies – runs for three fixed minutes, with the multiplier being based on how many mazes you can complete in three minutes rather than how fast you complete each individual maze. Zen Mode is essentially practice mode, with no timer at all, and is a good way to practice how to not run your finger out of the boundaries while moving at high speeds. Speed Mode will give you a shorter timer than normal on each individual level, but give you a fresh timer with each new level. The game maintains a separate high score table for each mode, although I’m not entirely sure what is proven by your longest Zen mode run.
Lastly, the game also keeps track of a number of achievements that give you more things you can strive for outside of just pure survival length, as well as a series of factoids on the various aesthetical game items you can unlock over time. I actually do recommend going out of your way to read all of these data entries on the various heroes, objectives, and locales as they can often be quite amusing. Warning, there will also be some truly horrendous puns contained within these as well.
iFanzine Verdict: Despite the relatively simplistic nature of the game, you will easily find yourself wanting to go back time and time again. Thanks to the very short gameplay of each game session, this is something you can you easily fit into breaks whenever they should become available. The only substantive downside is that it will take a very long time unlock most items if you don’t pay out more money.