Sunday 18 December 2016

Game Review: Jim Henson's Labyrinth

[M4cr0: The wifey speaks]

Google “classic kid’s movies of the 80's” and you will see all the movie titles from my childhood. One of those movies is “Labyrinth”, the 1986 fantasy film that incorporated live action and Jim Henson's puppets. For the uninitiated, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is a 14 year old girl caught between the make believe of childhood and responsibility of adulthood. She is left at home to begrudgingly babysit her younger brother Toby, where she wishes that the Goblin King would take him away from her. Jareth, The Goblin King (David Bowie) obliges her request, which she immediately regrets. To get Toby back and to stop the Goblin King turning him permanently into a goblin, Sarah must make her way through the Labyrinth and to the castle to rescue him. Along the way she meets amazing characters, both friend and foe. I won't spoil the ending, but do yourself a favour and watch it; if nothing else to see Bowie dance around wooing a 14 year old [just a little bit creepy…].

Back to the game. It was supposed to be my Christmas present, but after opening the box so M4cr0 could paint the playing pieces [yeehaa! Damn... how soon is Christmas?], we had to have a go. The game can be played by 1-5 players, with the objective being to save Toby before the 13th hour. There are 5 characters in play, Sarah, Hoggle, Sir Didymus, Ludo and Jareth, no matter how many people are actually playing. All good characters are united in the common goal of getting Sarah to the Goblin King's Castle. Hours correspond to complete rounds of play; during a complete round, every character has one turn to move and interact with the gaming board.

During play you pick up Labyrinth cards and take tests of speed, wit or brawn, by rolling dice against the antagonist on the card. Losing the test will force you to lose willpower, of which you have a set amount of tokens to lose. Once you lose all of your willpower you fall asleep in what is called the Oubliettte, where you miss a turn but regain a willpower token. Characters also have a special ability card and a weakness card that can affect how and what dice they roll against an enemy. [During the course of a game, if you overcome your weakness, your character becomes more powerful]. The funniest Labyrinth card, and I am ashamed to say that I failed the test, was to recite the lines from “Magic Dance”. I know you know them… You remind me of the babe... (What babe?). The game is arranged so that you have to get through  2/3 of the Labyrinth cards before you can even think about entering the goblin city...

Strategically, you can travel as a group and have a better chance of passing the tests, or you can travel alone. We traveled for the most part in two groups of two and, by the time it was hour 9, we felt like we would never draw the card to the goblin city. It made you feel like you were pressed for time and stuck in a… Labyrinth. On a side note, Marc's Ludo fell in the Bog of Eternal Stench and had to pass a social test every turn to see if he could keep traveling with the group. He failed and had to travel alone: [“Ludo shmell baad!”].

Once you draw the “Gates to the Goblin City” card you can fight the goblins within the city. Eventually, Sarah can meet the Goblin King in the staircase maze and, get this, you have to RECITE the spell that will send you and Toby back to the real world in order to win the game.

The Good – The artwork of the board and cards is lovely and very detailed. Every time you look at the board you will find more and more characters from the movie. The game flow makes you feel sufficiently like you are traveling in circles with the clock ticking. The Labyrinth cards follow the story, even if they are not drawn in order of appearance in the movie. The game is easy and will allow non-board gamers to participate and immerse themselves in nostalgia. After picking up the game and explaining the story, we also introduced the kids to the movie. I think that they will be able to play quite easily with us.

The Bad – The miniatures are not painted [yeeHAAA!]. Look I know you guys don't care about that, and I just put them at the top of M4cr0's “To-Do list”, but seriously everything is beautiful, except for the playing pieces. And they stick out like a sore thumb in a window in the box lid!!!!!! Not everyone paints, shock horror I know. Just give me a second to harp on the point. I have seen pictures of them painted in 3x the size, but painting big is different to painting small. OK I am done.

The game will be too simple for some. I think there is very little skill involved and it is a game of chance against dice. For many players it will be one that possibly sits on the shelf with the safe knowledge that they own a little piece of movie magic.

Overall, I think this game has/will earn it's place in our gaming cupboard. The theme is nothing like the other games we have [it plays a bit like Talisman, but less epic awesomeness/more accessible] and it is a good entry level game to play with the kids and other gaming novices. There is also an expansion that I can't find out any information about [I think it will just include extra miniatures]. This may add another dimension to the game. As it is, I give it a solid 3 out of 5 [I agree].

To end I will leave you with this gem:

See you across the table, [I couldn't have said it better myself!]


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