Sonic Labyrinth
  • Genre:
    • Puzzle
  • Platform:
    • Game Gear
  • Developer:
    • Minato Giken
  • Publisher:
    • Sega
  • Released:
    • UK October 1995
    • JP 11/17/1995
    • US November 1995
Score: 60%

This review was published on 03/27/2018.

Sonic Labyrinth is a video game developed by Minato Giken and published by Sega for the Sega Game Gear. It was originally released in Europe in October 1995, Japan on November 17, 1995, and North America in November 1995. Despite its title, this game has nothing to do with the Labyrinth Zone from the original Sonic the Hedgehog. It is, however, related to the Sonic the Hedgehog series, in that it's a spinoff. At the time, the majority of Sonic the Hedgehog games were side-scrolling platformers, but Sonic Labyrinth is neither side-scrolling nor a platformer. Most Sonic games also had an emphasis on speed, but that's certainly not the case for Sonic Labyrinth. Instead, Sonic Labyrinth has an isometric perspective that's similar to Sonic 3D Blast, which was released a year later on the Sega Genesis and Sega Saturn. Anyway, many fans of the franchise consider Sonic Labyrinth to be one of the worst Sonic games of all time. Is it really that bad? Read on to find out.

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In case you haven't heard, Sonic is his name and speed is his game. Well, it would be, but something happens in this game to change that. The diabolical Dr. Eggman, known in most places at the time as Dr. Robotnik, has been trying to defeat the heroic Sonic the Hedgehog over and over to no avail. Eggman realized that the main source of Sonic's power is his speed, so he devised a plan to slow down the blue hedgehog. The plan was to replace Sonic's normal sneakers with a pair of harmless looking boots that would slow down the speed of whoever wore them. This shoe exchange occurred while Sonic was fast asleep. The next morning, Sonic accidentally put on the boots and quickly noticed that he lost his quickness. He tried to pull the boots off, but they wouldn't budge. Laughing maniacally, Eggman declared that the only way to deactivate the boots is through the Chaos Emeralds, which are located in his deadly Super Labyrinth. Left with no other choice, Sonic enters the labyrinth.

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As the previous paragraph postulates, Sonic can't run fast in this game. In fact, he can't run at all! He can't even jump. The only thing he can do is walk around in eight directions with the d-pad and perform his signature ability, the Spin Dash. To perform the Spin Dash in this game, you hold down any of the two buttons to turn Sonic into a ball, and you aim where he'll go with the d-pad. While revving up a Spin Dash, you'll see one arrow that indicates the direction you're aiming at, and a set of increasing and decreasing arrows that show your speed. Once the desired direction and speed are set, you let go of the button to launch Sonic, causing him to roll along the ground and bounce around wildly. In addition to its increased speed, Spin Dashing is the only way to destroy enemies. During a roll, you can stop Sonic in his tracks by pressing any of the two buttons. Since walking is so slow, you'll spend most of the game Spin Dashing. That's one of Sonic Labyrinth's big problems, because the Spin Dash is a very haphazard way to travel.

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There are only four stages, but each one is divided into three subsections and a boss battle. The objective of each area is to find three keys and bring them to the goal door before time runs out. Similar to how rings work in the mainline games, Sonic drops his keys if he's injured. If Sonic gets hurt when he has no keys on him, you lose ten seconds of your remaining time, and you lose a life if time runs out. Destroying enemies awards you more time, though, and some even have keys. Prior to each boss, Sonic will roll down a slide, giving you an opportunity to collect rings. On top of giving you an extra hit during the boss fight, you get an additional life for every 100 rings you get. However, none of the bosses are particularly engaging, because Spin Dashing is all you do to both evade and attack them. Collecting keys also gets old after a while.

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You'll encounter many obstacles in your path, such as spikes, conveyer belts, bumpers, flippers, and more. Some of these gadgets can be helpful, such as springs that allow you to jump from one platform to the next, or cannons that shoot you to different areas. However, most of the doohickeys on the boards merely exist to frustrate you by wasting your precious time. Also, unlike most of the series, power-ups aren't contained within CRT monitors and are instead obtained by touching colored triangles. Different colors give you different power-ups; yellow gives you additional time, green destroys onscreen enemies, pink grants extra lives, blue briefly increases movement speed, and red makes you temporarily invincible. The faster movement speed one is pretty handy, because it lets you walk at a somewhat reasonable place. If only you could play the whole game like this.

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For some reason, this game only has a single Special Stage, and it's located behind a locked door in the third subsection of the second stage. In order to unlock this door, you must hit a hidden switch. The Special Stage itself is simply an area where you collect rings for extra lives until time runs out. Strangely, doing this Special Stage is necessary to get the good ending of the game. The instruction manual mentions that there's a second Special Stage hidden somewhere in the game, but that doesn't appear to be true. The whole thing is very vexing.

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Having to constantly Spin Dash everywhere is annoying, some of the later stages are difficult to navigate, and fetching keys quickly becomes tiresome after the first couple of stages. That's to say nothing of the unintuitive controls. The game can also be completed in under an hour. Sonic Labyrinth was not a good idea on paper, so it's odd that the concept somehow made it past the testing phase. Still, Sonic Labyrinth is far from the worst game in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, but that has more to do with how bad the franchise gets later on than this game having any redeeming qualities.

Word Count: 1,064

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