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Written by  :  Andrew Fisher (643)
Written on  :  Oct 01, 2018
Platform  :  Genesis
Rating  :  3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars3.6 Stars
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Good, intelligent, 1990 update of Rogue.

The Good

As a console-based rogue-like with no keyboard, I suppose Fatal Labyrinth is disadvantaged against computer based rogue-likes, but the joystick/pad controlled menu-system for managing weapons, armor and magic works pretty well. The graphics are nice and the gameplay smooth. While I still enjoy the old ASCII character versions of rogue, graphics and sound does help. As you move up through the levels, you find that the gameplay resembles chess, the characters move around the squares of an invisible grid-board. You find that you have to be strategic and stealthy to beat your opponents, otherwise they'll dodge or parry all your attacks. This may have been true of the original rogue games too, but I never noticed it. It's much more obvious in Fatal Labyrinth. I think it's quite a clever game, though probably gets too clever. At least it gives you a good, animated ending, if you put in the work and beat the red dragon on the roof of the castle. The gameplay is supported by a nice little bit of story at the start and finish i.e a dragon has stolen a holy grail equivalent, plunged the land into darkness.

The Bad

I'm very glad that I waited for the PC emulated version of this game, before trying hard to complete it. It would've sucked up too much time, trying on the console itself, repeating levels constantly. The enemy defense gets far too strong and beating them requires too much time and care. The impenetrable defense is enough to make one hate an otherwise decent game.

Oh and the background music is another thing. Title screen and ending music fine, but the stage themes are such short loops, they can get repetitive and grating.

The Bottom Line

I think it's best to disregard the continue system and rely on save states to complete the game. It's a better way to learn the game than having to redo entire levels. Obviously this game, like other rogue-likes, has replay value, with the system creating new "dungeon" levels for every play.