This is the one hundred forty-third entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
Our one hundred forty-third random selection from the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality is desperately trying to escape a confounding maze. It’s Labyrinth of Wild Abyss, by CannibalInteractive, and its tagline in the bundle reads:
A 50 floor labyrinth of nonsense
Reader, I did not make it through all 50 floors.
In my defense, Labyrinth of Wild Abyss is not a game that’s designed to be completed. Its itch.io page informs me that, like many of CannibalInteractive’s games, it is intended as a “test against the hubris of humanity”. Just how long can you last against this nefarious labyrinth? Even just the first floor took me a long time to navigate, constructed (as all the floors are) from similar-looking corridors at 90-degree angles to each other, with repeating patterns that make it nearly impossible to determine where one has already been. Common maze-solving techniques like following one wall don’t work, sometimes leading players in a circle instead of inevitably towards the exit. The walls, covered in simple low resolution textures, stretch far into the air, but a blue sky is visible above them, and sometimes gazing upwards offered a moment of respite. But eventually I had to get back to wandering the maze.
Some floors went very quickly in comparison, as I stumbled upon the glowing exit portal after just a few minutes. Others confounded me for what felt like ages, as I ran through indistinguishable corridors over and over. There are enemies in these mazes, too. I didn’t always see them, but turning a corner and coming face to face with one was more startling than I expected. This is despite the enemies being very slow, moving in small discrete steps as they try to catch the player. They don’t seem smart enough to chase the player around corners, however, simply moving directly towards the player’s position and stopping if a wall is in the way. CannibalInteractive describes Labyrinth of Wild Abyss as “a horror game about feeling lost and being worried about dying instantly to what’s around the next corner”, but I was never really scared. I was daunted, though, by the endless corridors and the seemingly random chance of finding the exits.
Each floor has a different appearance, for both the maze itself and the enemies that stalk its halls. Sometimes these are just recolored textures, other times the walls gain rounded corners, or the floor becomes a series of lily pads, presumably floating atop some sort of liquid. Sometimes the textures on the walls move, as if a viscous liquid is sliding down them, or indeed across them. The seldom seen enemies are depicted as pixel art sprites, always taking on some strange form. One floor might be stalked by a cluster of floating eyeballs, the next by a tentacled stack of cubes, yet another by a purple gelatinous pillar with eyes facing in all directions. Yet each floor feels the same. Every one (at least, of those I reached) is about wandering the corridors and finding the exit, every enemy moves and behaves in the same way. Only the appearance, and the specific layout, changes.
Still, I admit I felt compelled to try to best this insane labyrinth, bristling at the open challenge that CannibalInteractive had laid before me. In fact, when the bundle launched, CannibalInteractive put together a bounty that would reward the first person to provide evidence that they’d finished the whole game with free copies of everything CannibalInteractive has made and will make. That bounty was claimed in June 2020, which prompted Cannibal Interactive to release a version of Labyrinth of Wild Abyss with the enemies removed, for those who want to wander with a little less stress; this version is also included with the download, although I did not try it. I did, however, look over the other games that CannibalInteractive has released, which the bounty winner was able to claim. There are quite a few of them, and many do indeed seem to have similar themes of pitting players against an absurd challenge or ridiculous situation. I recognized one of them, I Have Low Stats But My Class Is “Leader”, So I Recruited Everyone I Know To Fight The Dark Lord, a Japanese-style role-playing game that tasks players with recruiting a party of 99 heroes and directing them all in classic turn-based, menu-based battles. I heard about that one when it was released. CannibalInteractive have a lot more games in a similar vein too.
I gave up on Labyrinth of Wild Abyss not because its endless corridors defeated my will, but because playing it was giving me a headache. That might have been due to some technical limitations: the game is pretty barebones in terms of options, launching in a fixed window (although it can switch to full screen by presing Alt + Enter), no way to remap the standard WASD and mouselook controls (I had to force an inverted mouse using the same tool I described in my post about HATCH) or change any other options besides sound effect and music volume. There isn’t even any music, in fact, nor are there any sound effects beyond menu sounds and a brief game over jingle if caught by an enemy. In fact, there are a bunch of weird menu options regarding the player character’s level and skills which I assumed were there as a satire of standard role-playing game conventions, since there is no equipment, skills or leveling in the game. But it turns out these are just artifacts from the Smile Game Builder engine used to make the game. What likely got me, I think, is the field of view, which cannot be changed, and has been known to give me headaches if it’s too small for my screen. Add in the occasional scrolling wall textures, and it’s a recipe for dizziness. I succumbed after reaching the twelfth floor.
If you like mazes, and think you can get farther than I did, by all means give Labyrinth of Wild Abyss a go. If you missed it in the bundle, it’s sold for a minimum price of $1, so it won’t set you back much. And you might want to check out the other games from CannibalInteractive too.
That’s 143 down, and only 1598 to go!