The Labyrinth Of Time
I remember a time when the inclusion of any kind of graphic in an adventure game was held to be sacrilege. No adventure game could be considered 'true' unless it contained white text on a black background and required a 'Go North' prompt from the player at regular intervals. Nowadays, if you even so much as have to type in your name on the 'saved game' roster, an adventure is jeered at and has stones cast upon it. Reading text is even worse. Why engage our brains when a brightly-coloured animation segment can do all that tedious imagination work for us? And now, with the advent of compact discs and digitised voices we don't even need text when characters speak. Strabismus sufferers no longer need to focus on tiny graphic fonts since we can hear all there is to know (although where this leaves the sonically-challenged sections of the populace is anyone's guess).
'But this is a good thing,' you cry and so you should, for it means technology is pressing ever onwards and we are rapidly approaching that fabled day when we just plug a wire straight into our brains and become Michelle Pfeiffer or Burt Reynolds in an action-packed adventure of our own while sitting like a vegetable in our living rooms.
So why then is the biggest fault of Electronic Arts' CD-based time-travel adventure a lack of text? Simply because the graphic illustrations are too good. I will guarantee that 90 percent of the time you spend in The Labyrinth Of Time will be taken up pointing at things on the screen, saying: 'What in the name of Jim Bowen is that?' and rather more frequently, 'Will someone tell me what the blazes is going on?'.
"I see"- said the blind man
The programmers, in their infinite wisdom, thoughtfully included an eyeball icon, presumably (and I use the word since I was unable to prove the fact through the course of the game) to look at items. Apart from providing a nice close-up of certain areas (which merely allows you to get a closer look at something indeterminable), I was left none the wiser as to what I was viewing. 'Text!' I was screaming. 'Give me some text. Tell me what this strange blue thing with protruding knobbles and an assortment of covered alcoves is, for I never have and most likely never will encounter one in my non-computing journeys.' It was an arduous task and no mistake.
Masturbation for the senses
Apart from this lack of understanding and a less than user-friendly (as I believe is the term employed by more fashionable reviewers than I) interface - far too many mouse clicks to do far too few things - I was remarkably impressed by this chronological oddity. The visuals, apart from their identifiable obscurity and a lack of smooth-scrolling The 7th Guest style movement, are superb. Quite the finest illustrations outside of the British Museum's Renaissance art section. And the sound! Such vibrance, such tonality, the tunes ranged through a multitude of musical eras, from Twin Peaks to The Prisoner and back via Captain Scarlet and Beethoven's Ninth. Both audio and visual material combine to produce an atmosphere unrivalled in an adventure game since the aforementioned The 7th Guest.
The plot, too, is above average for an American computer adventure, devoid as it is of an overabundance of cliche and unconvincing conversation that is too often the downfall of a potentially good game. You play the part of an average Joe (or Jake since we start in the States), bored of your everyday routine and bordering on the suicidal. This is told, rather nicely I thought, in a striking monochrome introductory sequence, until the arrival of a time-travelling warrior infuses colour into your life, recruiting you (being the nearest mortal being he could find) on a quest to negotiate a time and space-spanning labyrinth - built by an evil tyrant of no uncertain magical ability - with the intent of destroying it before it can be used as a conquering gateway for said villain.
The fact that this maze consists not of a series of garden shrubbery or underground caverns, but is made up of 1920s hotels, wild west towns and disused cinemas (to name but a few of the locales) lends the game the kind of surrealism usually reserved for 60S/70S television shows in the veirtof Sapphire And Steel and The Prisoner. To me this says quality and it says it with guts and verve.
Verdictum in toto
Look beyond the initial flaws and find an absorbing game. If marketing companies were capable of telling truths, then this would be the legend emblazoned across the box and I for one would pay money for such a slogan (although not the 40 pounds required as this is just another example of the abhorrent overpricing seen in our industry today. 20 pounds and no more, sir. Try haggling with your local shopkeepers; they may just be surprised enough for you to get away with it). Step briskly over the flick-screening, trip lightly around the control system and skip merrily through the obscurity to engage the best and most beautiful cd-rom adventure so far. (I should write press releases for a living. I'm a natural.)
Download The Labyrinth Of Time
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP