Drew and the Floating Labyrinth – Review

Drew and the Floating Labyrinth, from Dust Scratch Games, is a hand-drawn puzzle platformer set in a 3D space filled with floating, invisible paths. As Drew, a lost young girl trying to get home, you find yourself having to navigate the world by finding the secret path between the floating cubes. Drew has to use the sparse environmental clues to figure out how to move from the start cube to the exit cube without falling into the void. The story is drip fed to you at the end of each level set by a small bird with a strong male voice, who seems to be just as confused as you are as to why you are both in this place to begin with.

Drew can be controlled with mouse and keyboard or controller, although I found that I was unable to play the game without at some point reaching for the mouse. For example, you can press any controller button to start the game, but the level select screen requires you to use a mouse to click on the level you want to play. Similarly, you can use the mouse to click on “Options”, but you can only change the options with the keyboard or controller (In this instance, this is noted on the Options screen by the developer). In the game, Drew can only move in one of eight directions relative to the camera position, even when using the analog stick on a controller. For the puzzles and platforming encountered, the controls are good enough, but not great. Drew can jump, but there is no air control. Couple this with the fact your landing platform is usually invisible, you’ll most likely find yourself taking quite a few leaps of faith. I found myself not struggling with control as much when I switched back to mouse and keyboard.

Each set of levels introduces a new way of discovering the hidden path Drew needs to use to get to the end cube. As you walk on to the invisible path, the block you are standing on becomes visible, and the previous block once again disappears. The game mostly uses visual clues in the environment to let you know where you should be heading. In the first set of levels, a coloured square is placed on to one side of the visible block that indicates the path to the corresponding coloured block is in that direction. You will need to rotate the camera to locate the coloured square, and move forward from there. Just as you get used to solving the puzzles with the style of clues given, you’re on to the next level set where you have to start figuring it out all over again.

Some might find a particular set of visual clues to be easier to process than others, so the difficulty doesn’t always scale in a linear fashion through the level sets. For example, I found levels 5-1 through to 5-9 much easier than some of the previous sets, purely due to the way the clues were communicated to me. Once you hit level 6-1 though, all bets are off as the game starts to combine everything you’ve learnt so far, making for some mind-bending puzzling.

All of the character art and visible blocks (other than the main coloured blocks) in Drew and the Floating Labyrinth have been hand-drawn. Each frame of animation, for each action, from each of the eight possible angles. The game looks fantastic, although the earlier levels are lacking for interesting backgrounds. When the majority of your level is invisible most of the time it makes for a rather empty experience, but I suspect this may be intentional. The accompanying soundtrack of moody solo piano helps to emphasise the feeling of being lost, and the emptiness of the world. As you progress, the visuals start to fill out, giving you more of a sense of progression through the journey that links these levels together. As you’re finding your way home, the world around you becomes more pleasing to look at.

Drew and the Floating Labyrinth is a small, simple puzzle platformer that has some interesting ideas executed well, but lacks some polish. I didn’t encounter any bugs or issues that prevented me from moving forward with the game, and the puzzles are simple enough that I didn’t find myself frustrated at them at any point. I did find some of them challenging enough that I had to stop and think about my next move, though. If you’re into puzzle platformers, there’s not much depth here to satisfy you, but the game is over before the simple mechanics wear out their welcome. If you’re looking for a short game that’s light on story, Drew and the Floating Labyrinth can provide you with a couple of hours of easy gameplay and amazing art style. I definitely recommend seeing the game in action to check out the hand-drawn art style, but when it comes to the gameplay, you might want to look elsewhere.

Drew and the Floating Labyrinth is now available on PC, Mac and Linux from digital delivery platform Desura. You can also read our interview with Andrew Hlynka about Dust Scratch Games and Drew here.

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3 thoughts on “Drew and the Floating Labyrinth – Review

  1. Great points! I did try to fix the controller input a bit in an update on September 10, but you’re right that the keyboard works best (and the menu input, especially for the options menu, was just terribly done, I have no excuse). Definitely a lot of things I learned when developing the game.

    Thanks for writing!

    (Technically, it should be possible to use keyboard or controller input to select each level in the main section of the menu, after the update I mentioned above. If you can confirm once more that this isn’t true, I’ll work on that right away.)

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