European cover art.
|Series||Sonic the Hedgehog|
Sonic Labyrinth[a] is an action and puzzle game developed by Minato Giken and published by Sega for the Game Gear in 1995. The game features Sonic the Hedgehog exploring maze-like stages from an isometric perspective. Dr. Robotnik has robbed Sonic of his trademark speed, so Sonic walks slowly but can roll into a ball and dash across the stages. Critics thought the game was a unique addition to the Sonic library but flawed by convoluted controls and repetitive gameplay. It has received harsher criticism in retrospect and is considered one of the worst Sonic games ever. Sonic Labyrinth was rereleased on Sonic Adventure DX and on Sonic Mega Collection Plus, as well as the Nintendo 3DS in 2012.
Sonic Labyrinth is an action and puzzle game with pinball elements. It is presented in an isometric perspective, and has been compared to Marble Madness. Series villain Dr. Robotnik has tricked Sonic the Hedgehog into wearing special shoes designed to rob him of his speed, so Sonic must collect the Chaos Emeralds to release the shoes from his feet.
The player controls Sonic, navigating him through maze-like stages filled with enemies and obstacles that hinder his path. Sonic walks uncharacteristically slow, but can roll into a ball and dash across the levels to take out enemies and avoid danger. This spin dash move can be charged for extra speed and damage. Sonic must collect three keys in each stage and bring them to the goal to advance to the next level. Sometimes the keys may be hidden within enemies. The game has four zones, each containing three stages. After each set of three stages, there is a bonus round of collecting rings and a boss battle. Collecting 100 rings in the bonus round will net the player an extra life. After finishing the game, a time attack mode is unlocked.
Development and release
Sonic Labyrinth was developed by Minato Giken, and published by Sega. It was released in Japan on 17 November 1995, in North America that November, and in Europe around October or November. The game was included in Sonic Adventure DX (2003) as an unlockable bonus, and in the compilation Sonic Mega Collection Plus (2004). It was rereleased for the Nintendo 3DS on the Japanese eShop digital distribution platform on 16 May 2012. It was later released in Europe on 5 October 2012, and in North America on 17 June 2013. The North American release came as part of a campaign by Nintendo to release 8-bit games on the 3DS eShop following a draught of releases on the distribution service. The game does not take advantage of the system's 3D stereoscopic functionality.
Critical reception to Sonic Labyrinth was mixed. Multiple reviewers wrote about difficulties controlling Sonic as he bounced wildly around the levels. Mean Machines Sega wrote that "you can get through each level with a bit of practise but you're left wondering how you did it." Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) did not like the game's isometric perspective, thinking it contributed to problems directing Sonic around. GamePro wrote that small screen made it occasionally difficult to see what was occurring. They did like the graphics however, as did EGM and Mean Machines Sega, the latter which thought they echoed the graphics of SegaSonic the Hedgehog (1993).
Reflecting their positive thoughts, Mega Fun thought Sonic Labyrinth featured innovative gameplay. GamePro and Famitsu both compared the game to Marble Madness. Sega Magazin thought the game was challenging with sophisticated level design. GamePro believed it was the most interesting of the recent Sonic additions to the Game Gear library. One reviewer at Mean Machines Sega thought it was a good puzzle game to play in short segments, and may be worth the time for fans of Sonic games, pinball, or puzzles. However another critic from the same magazine thought the game was frustrating and repetitive. EGM also thought the game became repetitious after a few levels and would be boring for more experienced players, although Sonic fans may enjoy it. They concluded their thoughts writing: "This title overall tried to mix the standard side-scrolling Sonic game with a worthless pinball title and failed. In turn, this one just comes up short in both playability and enjoyment, causing boredom after the first few stages."
In a retrospective review, Nintendo Life gave the game a "poor" 4 out of 10 score. They criticized the controls and illogical level design, and the start-stop nature of the gameplay. They also wrote about Sonic's lack of speed when walking on foot, which they thought was baffling for a Sonic game. USgamer called it "a poor man's version of Marble Madness, taking the worst of that game and the worst of Sonic and cramming it into one title. Absolutely dire." Nintendo World Report called it "a demented version of Sonic 3D Blast", drawing similarities through its isometric style. Official Nintendo Magazine called it "a dreadful game with an identity crisis" and "one of the worst Sonic games ever".
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