Labyrinthine Dreams is a short puzzle game found on Steam that follows a woman who is on the brink of death. In many ways the game is meant to be a piece of symbolism regarding depression, success, and taking control of one’s life.
How it plays
In a nutshell, the game play is pretty simple, but the puzzles can be somewhat challenging, especially at first. I found the music pretty good for such a small game. The voice acting, however, leaves something to be desired. The two male voices come across quite stilted and poorly chosen for the art. I’d recommend turning the voices off if they annoy you. The dialogue is displayed on screen regardless.
There are several issues with how the game functions, pacing, and controls. There are limited instructions, no tutorial to speak of, and if you get stuck, there’s no obvious menu to save the game. Also, the game switches between puzzle mode and story mode without any warning or indication that you can move freely. It feels like the game missed a number opportunities for players to interact with the surroundings during the free movement sections of the game.
When I played through, the puzzles were, at first, quite challenging. Due to the lack of a tutorial in game or, really, much of anything before entering the first puzzle, I was stuck on the 2nd map for a while. After I figured out the “trick” to the puzzle, I didn’t have too much difficulty through the rest of the game.
The lack of a time limit and ability to reset levels was helpful and the music keeps things relaxing, for the most part. It’s not high energy and, if you are any good at puzzles, not high stress either. It’s a fun diversion but plays out in an hour or two, depending on how quick you are with puzzle solving.
This game was pitched to Gaming As Women1 due to the presence of a female protagonist who is portrayed realistically and is not defined by her relationships with men. I don’t quite agree with this pitch.
Beth is drawn as a slight framed white woman with brown hair. She isn’t drawn glamorously, nor is she made up to be particularly beautiful. She’s wearing a simple white dress that is her dream projection of her hospital gown. She has flaws and works through them in the course of the game. She isn’t defined as perfect and she comes across as a typical, cynical young adult in the US, recently graduated from college. It’s a fairly non-standard depiction of a woman in a gaming context.
Her life, however, is primarily defined by her relationships with men. The game opens with her reminiscing about her father. About how hard he worked and how much of himself he sacrificed to provide for his family. About how he failed because of the way the system is rigged against hard workers and wage-slaves. His suicide scars Beth, leading her to become embittered and angry at the world. Through the course of the story, she meets a young man who rekindles her hope despite a world hell-bent on crushing her dreams and grinding her into just another lost cog in a generation trapped in wage slavery. While the young man is presented as Beth’s love interest, he’s also presented primarily as supportive rather than active. I would argue that Beth’s story is very much reliant on her relationship to men.
The story comes across disjointed, in part because of how we are fed bits of conversations broken up by puzzle maps. My issue here is that when I complete a puzzle, I’m either feeling happy at defeating a challenge or annoyed because I was frustrated at the challenge. Neither emotion fits well with the flow of the game, thus I was a lot less likely to sympathize with the story. The dreaming nature of the dialogue, cataloguing Beth’s life, thematically fit the puzzles, but emotionally the two events, puzzle and story, didn’t mesh.
It is, in many ways, a story of overcoming the barriers we put in front of ourselves to achieve our dreams. Beth is flawed and struggles to overcome her own problems.
I found the game somewhat interesting, but it also felt like it ended just as soon as I was starting to really get into the flow of the puzzles. I wish that the puzzles had been more integrated with the story somehow rather than feeling extraneous and that the game was just a little bit longer.
For the price tag ($5, as of this post), it’s worth it only if you enjoy puzzle games and want to support an indie developer. If you are looking for something with greater puzzle challenges, the game is over too quickly. If you are looking for something with a deep, meaningful story, the game doesn’t quite deliver.
- We have received a review key from the developers. ↩