The Labyrinth of Time. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Peter Olaafson
CD-ROM game remains something of an oxymoron. The expensive CD-ROM medium is most often used to store extra pictures, sound, and music, with additional depth a secondary cosideration (if it is considered at all). CD-ROM games may be bigger and prettier than other games but there often isn't that much game to them at all.
At first glance, Electronic Arts' Labyrinth of Time seems to fit squarely into that category. In a sense, it is the most basic of graphic adventures. You use a simple icon interface to stroll through a range of fantistic landscapes--from subway to hotel to mirror maze and so on--and collect objects that permit you to solve horizon-expanding puzzles. There's not much of a story. There are no characters to talk to. There's not much text at all, in fact.
And yet Labyrinth always manages to rise above the genre. The movement may be square by square, but each of those squares has four distinct views--many of them with gorgeous and unique closeups, from little signs to ray-traced detail work. The SVGA artwork is haunted by shadow and reflection and lit as if from within. The inventory feature isn't centered on a bunch of little cubbyholes; each object is granted its own screen. Doors open, the elevator runs, and the toilet works.
And I can't believe I've gotten this far without mentioning an intimidating cyclic score that rivals the very best music not simply for computer games but for any entertainment medium. It's stirring and frightening, and you will remember it long after the fan is silent and the monitor cold. This is one case in which those sleek extras that often make CD-ROM game an oxymoron instead turn a potentially mundane adventure into a new creature. It's at once a game to play and a place to visit and lose yourself in.
The technical stuff never gets in the way of that experience. I had much less trouble getting Labyrinth going than most other CD-ROM products. It barely takes up any space on your hard disk--just a hundred bytes or so per save. And while the SVGA graphics can be a bit slow to load from a standard-speed drive, Labyrinth appears to store recently accessed screens in RAM, so flipping through each room's views needn't always be a chore.
Little here is a chore. All you need do is turn off the lights, turn up the sound, and allow yourself to be swept away. If I had to be lost in a labyrinth, this is the one I'd choose.