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Dr Kobushi’s Labyrinthine Laboratory – (P)review

Usually I complete games or will have got almost to the end of them before I write and record a game review. I’ve been playing Dr Kobushi’s Labyrinthine Laboratory for many hours but I have to declare, I’m barely close to 20% completion. Put simply, this game is hard as nails. I am loving the challenge and its simple rules but it has repeatedly handed my brain back to me, steaming out the ears and saying “try again”?

Without that said, this is a preview as much as a review because the game has so much to offer.

Each level will usually see you chased around by crazy bots intent on killing you.

Each level is a floor in a giant tower full of traps, where your dog Falafel has run off into. Each level is half a screen big and full of squares, broken up into different tiles and walls. All you have to do is make your way to the exit. However, traps and more importantly bots are in your way. All you can do is move up, down, left or right and you have to use your brain to outwit the bots.

The first bot you have to deal with is a Devilbot and they will move towards you by two spaces every time you move one. Spot the problem – they’ll catch you long before you make it to the exit. You need to plan your every move to box the bots in behind walls, nooks and crannies. Bots follow very specific movements and so you’ll use this to trick them into corners and then make a break for it. Other bots have different movement types and as they get drip fed into the game, you’ll be keeping your eye on their movements.

Trial and error as you work out what everyone’s moves will be is key to success.

Not only are bots a problem but you’ll need to navigate and trigger traps too .Spikes can be helpful to kill bots after you’ve walked over them to trigger them. Collapsible platforms can allow you to box in bots to kill them too. Other paths like arrow paths only allow you to enter one way, whilst you can exit it in any direction. Also fun are turrets that move 90 degrees on their spot each turn. Get caught in their line of sight, they’ll launch a fireball and its game over. Add in some mirrors though and suddenly triggering a fireball can be quite handy. Keys also add in lockable areas and blocks can be pushed about too. Zap traps open and close making a safe passage only 50% of the time.

All of these things and much more are part of the level design. Dr Kobushi’s Labyrinthine Laboratory is fiendish but you only ever move in four directions. After the opening couple of levels, the difficulty dives straight to hardcore but you can slowly pick apart a level through trial and error. The rules are clear, its up to brain power to make it work. Graphically, the pixelart is stylish and playful – especially the labyrinth puppet masters that taunt you on the other side of the screen. They are expressive and evoke 90’s cartoon villain fun. Fearofdark provides a fantastic chiptune soundtrack too that gets stuck in your head.

My brain is already melting and I’ve not got this far yet!

Frankly, this is an easy recommend for any puzzle fiend. If you want to solve the puzzles and collect the extra gems, you’ll need to have some Mensa brain power behind you. There’s over 100 levels to beat and I’m still early in the game but sometimes a level takes me over half an hour to work out. I screenshot the level and have a little think about it and come back fresh for another attack. It’s a superb example of simple game mechanics, really well planned out. Grab it.

Review copy provided by developer.

Dr. Kobushi's Labyrinthine Laboratory
Final Thoughts
I am still in the first 20% of the game but I can safely recommend this. You'll just need an all powerful brain to see beyond its initial levels.
Fiendish puzzles.
Loads of mechanics to juggle but with simple to understand rules.
Superb soundtrack.
You'll feel genuine joy completing just a single level.
A real hardcore puzzle game.
Feels like a progressive hint system would be helpful.
No undo button - only restart.

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