As nerd culture has more and more deeply embedded itself into pop culture, we’ve seen new forms of entertainment drawn from staples of the past. A big, recent example is Actual Play, sessions of tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons recorded in podcast form for a wider audience.

While this format is new, the concept of sharing tabletop play sessions as fiction for an audience can be traced back to a series called Record of Lodoss War. Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, recently out of Early Access from developer Team Ladybug and publisher PLAYISM, is a small piece of Lodoss’ long history.

Series creator Ryo Mizuno was involved in development, delivering a story that ties the original Lodoss War stories to a new series Mizuno started publishing in 2019. Much like Team Ladybug’s other titles, Wonder Labyrinth is a Metroidvania-style game that’s briskly paced, curiously designed and full of some of the most impressive pixel art animation you’ll see today.

Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth - Record of Lodoss War Review

Ryo Mizuno is one of the creators of “Sword World,” a tabletop RPG system born in the 80s that offered a new take on familiar fantasy tropes and a simple gameplay structure based on using only two six-sided dice.

From Sword World came “Replay,” a long-standing trend of taking tabletop gameplay sessions and turning them into light novels. Record of Lodoss War is one such Replay story, which proved successful enough to become its own series complete with anime, manga and videogame adaptations, and of course further novels and other projects set in the same world. 

Much like the popular crew of Matthew Mercer’s Critical Role series, the cast of Lodoss War (including Wonder Labyrinth protagonist Deedlit) originated as characters played by Mizuno’s tabletop group. Folks on this side of the pond will be most familiar with the anime adaptation, which is currently published by Funimation.

The story itself is a classic tabletop-like scenario, featuring a group of warriors traveling the world, fighting monsters and eventually getting involved in a larger political struggle.

Deedlit, an elf with both sword and sorcery skills, is the connective tissue between the original Lodoss War stories and the current series, Diadem of the Covenant. That story is set 100 years after the events depicted in the anime, and Wonder Labyrinth is set in an unspecified point between the two. 

In this game, Deedlit wakes up in a mysterious maze, with no idea where she is or how she got there. People she encountered through the Lodoss War series, friend and foe, appear in the labyrinth as well, but all they seem to do is relay cryptic messages.

Deedlit has no choice but to make her way through, both to escape and figure out what is happening and why. If you just like Metroidvania-style games, you really don’t need to know much about the source material to enjoy Wonder Labyrinth. You’ll certainly be lost as to who these characters are, but the story largely plays a backseat to the action.

And the action, despite the game’s quick 6-8 hour runtime, is a blast. There’s a clever mix here between classic Symphony of the Night-inspired exploration, and frantic magical combat that’s reminiscent of Ikaruga, of all things.

Deedlit has control of two spirits, one of which has the power of fire, the other air. Swapping between the two gives Deedlit’s body those elemental properties, and lets her absorb hazards or attacks imbued with the corresponding element.

So while you’re running, slashing and dodging, you’re also required (especially in boss fights) to pay attention to specific shmup-like visual cues to avoid harm.

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That color system is combined with a level system, wherein doing damage with one spirit grants power to the other. When maxed out at level 3, not only does Deedlit’s damage output grow, but her health will passively regenerate.

Taking damage drops your level back down, forcing you to stay on your toes and sometimes sacrifice damage numbers to build your levels back up. The system is often applied to platforming challenges as well, having the player shift color to phase through barriers or glide around obstacles.

Sometimes both at once!

While Wonder Labyrinth is never truly taxing or complicated, there’s enough movement that you’ll still be engaged and feel like you’re working for your wins. You may not ever feel like you’re truly in peril, but you do know that if you get too cocky a few mistakes will humble you back to the last save point. 

As far as the map goes, Wonder Labyrinth tries to do a lot with a little, with varying degrees of success. There are gates you’ll need to unlock abilities to pass, but most of the roadblocks are basic color-coded locks pushing the game in a linear direction.

Each portion of the map is also split into “stages,” giving the map more of an aesthetic feeling than structural. That said, there are things like hidden rooms and some classic ‘vania backtracking, so it isn’t a total misdirection. 

For a game of its size, these rough edges don’t make a huge impact. If you’re looking for a Bloodstained competitor, that isn’t what you’re in for here. Wonder Labyrinth is definitely well-made, but it doesn’t try to overstay its welcome either.

You can take it down easily in a couple sessions, and that feels like the perfect investment for what you get in return. There are some other pain points, such as a series of obstacles relying on ranged attacks to operate.

Deedlit’s bow is finicky enough in combat, but asking the player to skim arrows over the tops of gears without like, wavering or missing while standing on a moving platform is awkward. There are also some ricochet or magnet-based targets and sometimes it just feels like fumbling more than finesse. 

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It’s also easy to get stun-locked to death. There are moments when enemies are standing on either side of a screen transition, and the game’ll let them bat you back and forth until you’re dead, especially if you happen to get stunned.

There isn’t much risk of that happening during a boss battle, but it’s always a good idea to hop over to nearby save points often, even if they’re a little out of the way.

Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth really made my weekend. Not only did I have a blast with a fun-sized Metroidvania adventure, I also discovered a series with a fascinating history. I’ve been watching the anime as well, and it’s a pretty great example of a 1990s anime OVA.

Solid animation, cool characters, and a little side of violence to keep things interesting. If you don’t hang out with Deedlit as an existing Record of Lodoss War fan, you may well come out on the other side of the Wonder Labyrinth about to become one.

Especially the way the game ends, with an emotional bite that doesn’t need lore knowledge to resonate with, this game will leave you wanting to learn more.


Pros:

  • Incredible 2D visuals and animations
  • Ikaruga-like combat gimmick
  • Ties in to source material well

Cons:

  • Bow puzzles are annoying
  • Color-coded locks don't mix well with exploraton vibes
  • Cheap stun-locked deaths can happen
  • Weapon variety feels a little thin

Score: 8.5/10

A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review