Written by Twisted Ideas
Drew and the Floating Labyrinth is one of several Canadian developed games that I saw during TCAF (Toronto Comics and Arts Festival) 2015 this past weekend. Out of all of the games I saw, this was the most visually appealing with its minimalist look and hand drawn style of the main character and most of the visuals of the game. This game was successfully greenlit from Steam Greenlight in 2014 and was demoed at TCAF for a little more PR. After solving one of the most difficult levels in the game (after seeing that no progress was made in over half an hour) I really wanted so see what the whole game had to offer. Does this Greenlight game live up to expectations upon its full release?
Drew and the Floating Labyrinth
Developer: Dust Scratch Games
Platforms: Linux, Mac, PC
What is it?
A young girl, Drew wakes up in a mysterious void on floating cubes. Her only friend here is a talking bird who join her as she navigates the floating labyrinth to get her back home.
How does it play?
Drew and the Floating Labyrinth is a 3D platforming puzzle game. Each level start you on a red cube trying to reach the glowing green cube. You have to navigate on mostly invisible platforms to reach the end by using clues in the level to determine where the next cube will be. These clues will require you to move your camera around Drew in order to see the level from different perspectives to make progression smoother. Most levels will have multiple colored cubes that remain visible throughout. Passing these cubes sets a checkpoint if you fall off the labyrinth.
The path you need to follow only moves in four directions but the it can move vertically. Each cube isn’t always solid on on all sides. A block may be above you in jumping range but it won’t stop you from falling if you walk into it. You can jump to distant blocks if there are gaps on the path or if you believe you will reach a path when you land.
How does it look?
The game simple 3D objects for a majority of the environment while giving most blocks a hand drawn look. But Drew is the real focal point of the game. Drew has a simple look but is very eye-catching too. As you complete each set of level, a new part of Drew will be colored in. Drew also has a lot of work put into the animation. She has a lot of idle frames as her hair moves in the wind and even though she a 2D sprite in a 3D environment the camera will account for the 8 major angles you will view her from, changing the sprite appropriately.
How does it sound?
The soundtrack uses a lot of piano as the key instrument in the game. These pleasant themes sets up the emotional tones of the story perfectly. The only problem with the music is that it’s high-pitched. It could have been just me but I had to turn down the volume a lot before it was okay on my ears.
What do I think?
Drew and the Floating Labyrinth is a fairly unique puzzle game but it’s rough around the edges. The menus are slow and exiting to the title screen makes going back into the game very slow. You don’t have to play the game in the level order but it always takes you to the main menu breaking the flow of the game. There are more tutorial levels simple and “story” levels than there are challenging levels that combine several of the clue mechanics together. This was a missed opportunity because those are easily the best parts of the game.
The labyrinth clues are a great mechanic. It gives the game a unique feel by forcing you to move the camera in weird angles that you don’t do often in games. It’s clunky when having to move the camera 180 degrees or moving it while walking but if you take your time it works well.
I’m shocked how many levels where are allowed to jump to distant platforms. This can sometimes cut a decent chunk out of the level because there’s no reason to play around with the camera when you can save yourself time and simply make a small jump. These also usually happen right at the end of a level too. Whenever I got somewhat lost or saw a nearby platform I would default to seeing if I could jump across than trying to find the proper path. The developer has a lot of cool ideas for the labyrinths but hasn’t refined them enough to prevent skips like this.
I really wish there was something extra as the end of the game, specifically seeing each labyrinth completely visible. You get a decent view of a labyrinth at the end of a level as you float away but I would like to fully see and possibly play the game where I don’t have to stop every few steps playing around with the camera.
Should you get it?
Drew and the Floating Labyrinth is a unique game with charming visuals, great music and a simple (and predictable) yet effective story. This is the Dust Scratch Games’ first developed game and I’m happy that it got through Steam Greenlight because it deserved to but the final product leaves something to be desired. The game is fairly short, especially when you really understand how each of the clues work. You can easily skip portions of a puzzle and there aren’t enough puzzles that combines all of the clue types. I would still recommend this game but it will be up to you to decide if the $8 asking price is worth it.