Terrible news! Mr. X, the Phantom Thief, has stolen the Maze Stone. In its place he left a note for Pierre, the Maze Detective.
"Dear worthless detective, I now have the Stone," reads the note from Mr. X.
"The one that turns everything into mazes," he helpfully clarifies. "P.S.: Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Actually, that might be great news. After all, Pierre the Maze Detective, a small boy who primarily does his detecting in mazes, surely spends a lot of time just waiting for maze-based cases to pop up. Since most criminals rob banks or steal jewels outside of mazes, this could be Pierre's first case in years and possibly the only case of his life until someone gets murdered at the Overlook Hotel. Pierre's case will hopefully end with Mr. X in jail, because anyone who laughs one punctuated Ha! at a time is clearly disturbed and unfit for society.
Puzzle adventure Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective is based on a series of children's comic books. If you've ever read Where's Waldo (or Where's Wally, as it's known in Europe) you've got about half of the concept. You peer at big, busy, colorful environments packed with weird comedic characters while soaking in lots of amazing little details. But with Pierre you're not just enjoying the sights, you're also looking for a way through the environments, which can be pretty tricky at times.
Beginning at a museum where half of the exhibits have come to life and the cops are helpless to restore order, you run through the maze created by crowds of people to reach specific waypoints—a baffled cop, or a witness who saw Mr X., for example. Along the way there are lots of little nodes to interact with: certain objects or animals or people give you a cute bit of dialogue or a bit of animated comedy.
There are also items to collect along the way: Mr. X's confusing little notes, treasure chests, and big gold stars, usually placed in hard-to-reach spots in the maze. Reach the end of the maze and Mr. X will taunt you before leading you to the next one, but there's no need to hurry. There are lots of details you'll miss if you leave the level before you've been everywhere.
You'll run into some recurring characters, too, such as a helpful wizard who conjures up arrows made of shrubbery that help point your way, and a confident but ultimately ineffective ninja who is after those same gold stars as you. (He's so obsessed with stealthily positioning himself to capture a star he never actually springs into action.) Levels get bigger and more complicated as you move from the museum to a busy downtown area packed with cars to a sprawling magical forest filled with tree forts to a haunted mansion crowded with vampires, skeletons, and mummies.
And it's all delightful. The huge environments are absolutely stuffed with amusing little scenes to spy on, and finding your way through them, shimmying up and down ladders, ducking through doorways, and skirting through tiny gaps in the crowds, is satisfying. The music is great and the art is charming as hell—I feel like I could spend ages just examining every single character to see what they're doing. Clicking things is rewarding, too: I opened the sunroof of a car and a giraffe popped its long neck out. Opening another car door released a huge bunch of balloons that lifted the car slowly into the sky. Sliding up a series of windows revealed a tiger strolling around in an apartment building. There are a surprising number of chickens hiding in the world. There's almost always something cute or interesting happening on the screen, and usually many at once.
And the mazes can be pretty tricky at times. You have some idea of where you're headed next, but there are roundabout routes, ladders blocked by goofballs, pathways obstructed by guards, and plenty of side routes and shortcuts that only become apparent once you've reached them. But again, there's no rush. Reaching the exit is the goal but the fun comes in exploring every corner you can reach.
I've just come back from a bit of vacation where I didn't so much as touch a computer or play a videogame for almost a week, and Labyrinth City has been a great way to slowly ease myself back into gaming again. Yeah, it's made for kids. But I don't care how old you are, it's a delightful world to spend some time in.