Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective is based on a puzzle book series called Pierre the Maze Detective. The book series is from Hirofumi Kamigaki and the Japan-based illustration studio IC4DESIGN and it’s similar to the classic search-and-find series I Spy and Where’s Waldo? but with a neat twist; the books feature mazes for readers to navigate through while also completing optional objectives. I hadn’t heard of Pierre the Maze Detective until this video game adaptation was announced and I am obsessed.
I spent so much time staring at the detailed photographs in I Spy, looking for hints and clues on where the locations were and thought of little stories surrounding the pictured items. It felt like the worlds in I Spy somehow existed between our world and some other realm. My imagination was allowed to run a little while reading the series but there was still only so much information I could pull from the objects. The Where’s Waldo? series fed my imagination further by adding people, places, and emotional moments with actions that were evident despite the static image. It was still a picture though and with a primary objective that didn’t necessarily encourage exploration, which is part of what makes Pierre the Maze Detective so special and different.
The maze element sounds like a simple premise to introduce into a picture but it’s quite literally a thread that strings a narrative and adds player agency into the scenes. Tracing and searching along a branching path pulls the reader into the pictures and transforms them from an observer into a participant that exists among the page’s characters. It was already brilliant putting this onto pages in a book. Even as static images, the books feel like a video game that only moves or makes noise in your mind. I’m actually surprised it wasn’t turned into a video game sooner because it would work well and function even in the wrong hands. France-based developer Darjeeling was the best developer for the job though because their love for the book series shines in each and every moment of this game.
Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective features detailed, hand-drawn illustrations set across a variety of locations with Pierre chasing after the thieving Mr. X, who has stolen the Maze Stone causing a curse across the land that’s put mazes everywhere. Players move Pierre through environments while scanning and searching surroundings for the correct path and extra goodies hidden in chests along the way. There are also other collectibles like golden stars, which are also sought after by a ninja that’s always one step behind players that snag the treasures. These collectibles are optional but irresistible; these locations are delightful and I enjoyed looking everywhere and interacting with items and characters. Talking with characters would reveal silly or weird dialogue or cause something else to happen in the level, like a hint or mini-game appearance.
Part of why Labyrinth City works so well besides the quirky characters and fascinating illustrations is how well everything connects. These levels feel like they’re alive and well, it’s because they are. They move and breathe just like you and me. There were times I was stuck but all it took to find the way was looking around and exploring. Stairs, doors, and rooftops connect and intersect and it’s easy to stop and look around because there are so many sights to see and interactions to witness.
I first heard of this game from Nintendo’s Indie World stream and thought it looked interesting but I didn’t realize how captivating it would be. It’s a really special experience. I loved being lost in the world of Pierre the Detective and chasing Mr. X through the book’s binding and into another world — and I think you will too.