Amata K.K.’s Hiromichi Takahashi guides our rickety wheelchair through the horrors that await in his nightmarish VR escape room, Last Labyrinth
Last Labyrinth delivered a unique VR escape room experience when it released last November. Taking its cues from SAW and ICO, it put players in control of a wheelchair-bound protagonist armed with nothing but a laser pointer on their head and forced them to guide a mysterious young girl through a mansion teeming with cryptic puzzles, deadly traps, and other horrors to avoid.
Now, in celebration of the game’s one-year anniversary and limited retail release at Strictly Limited Games, we at Hey Poor Player had the chance to chat with Hiromichi Takahashi, Director and Producer of Last Labyrinth, to learn more about what went into creating this haunting adventure.
Hey Poor Player: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions regarding Last Labyrinth. Can you take a few moments to explain the premise of the game to our readers?
Hiromichi Takahashi: Last Labyrinth is a VR escape-adventure game where you, the player, are bound to a wheelchair and must work together with a mysterious girl named Katia, to solve puzzles and escape the mansion you are trapped in.
As you progress through the story, you bond with Katia through the unique experience of “non-verbal communication” and puzzle-solving. You’ll also have moments of strong and varying emotions, such as the fear of death, the feelings of loss and guilt, anxiety and relief and much more, all presented in a way that only VR can.
HPP: When it comes to VR, escape rooms have become hugely popular in recent years. What do you feel sets Last Labyrinth apart from its contemporaries in the genre?
HT: Having the player themselves unable to move is the biggest difference compared to other escape room games. You’re forced to rely on Katia to solve the puzzles.
HPP: Following its release last year, the game garnered a little bit of controversy regarding the gruesome ways in which the player’s childlike companion Katia could be killed. Did these depictions of violence ever cause any concern among the staff during the game’s development?
HT: While there were comments regarding the depictions of violence, the game itself doesn’t have any direct scenes of gore, e.g. decapitated limbs or blood is never shown directly to the player at any point in the game. We intentionally did not include any straight-up gore. Even during the death scenes, players would only see Katia’s body going limp, or have their view blocked by machinery. The rest of the implied gore and violence is left up to the players’ imaginations.
HPP: Katia’s innocent demeanor stands in stark contrast to Last Labyrinth‘s grim tone. Was this intentional?
HT: Yes, this was intentional. Forcing the player to rely solely on this young girl to solve puzzles, while they themselves are unable to do anything, reinforces their feelings of helplessness and powerlessness.
HPP: What are some of the unique challenges the team faced when creating a horror-puzzle game exclusively for VR platforms?
HT: There’s no concept of “camera view” when inside VR, which means that you can’t directly force players to look at certain things or in certain directions like in traditional games. The players are free to look around everywhere, just like in real-life. Getting players to look where we wanted them to was a big obstacle for us, but it also meant that if we could pull it off well, that would add strongly to their sense of immersion in VR.
HPP: Could you tell us some of the games and films that inspired the team the most when creating Last Labyrinth?
HT: For myself, some of the works that inspired me include:
* Games: Myst, Gadget: Past as Future, gadget, CLOCK TOWER, Full Throttle
* Films: The Spirit of the Beehive, films by Dario Argento and Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky
* Anime: Angel’s Egg (Tenshi no Tamago)
HPP: Keeping the player confined to a wheelchair is certainly a unique premise. How did this come to be?
HT: The reason we wanted to keep the player in a wheelchair was to emphasize the other aspects of Last Labyrinth. The game isn’t only about puzzles, it’s a mix of different themes, and one of them is portraying the relationship of trust and communication between the player and your partner character, Katia.
Trapping the player in a wheelchair forces them to rely on Katia to solve puzzles, instead of doing it themselves, which in turn, drives the slowly bonding relationship of trust between them.
HPP: Did limiting the player’s mobility in such a way present any difficulties when creating the game’s world?
HT: In a way, since the player’s view is still restricted to that of looking around while sitting still, laying out the puzzles and parts in a way that players could still see them was a big challenge. On top of that, designing the various mechanisms and objects so that they would feel like a natural part of the dungeon added another layer of difficulty to development.
HPP: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently when creating Last Labyrinth?
HT: Last Labyrinth is by no means perfect, and if we had the chance, there are definitely some parts of the game that we’d like to brush up, but for the most part, we’re happy with the way things turned out.
If there’s demand for it, we’d like to try adding new costumes for Katia, or new puzzles for the game, as a form of thank-you for the fans.
HPP: Of all the puzzles featured in the game, what are some of your favorites?
HT: Justice (the room with the balancing scales) would be a favorite.
HPP: Lastly, can fans look forward to a sequel down the road?
HT: We have some plans for new games in the works, there’s nothing we can reveal directly yet. If there is a sequel or new title it probably won’t be in the same escape-room genre, since we’d like to bring something new to the table again. We do hope to bring another unique experience for our fans in the future again!
HPP: Thanks again for this opportunity.
HT: Thank you for the interview opportunity as well! It was my pleasure.
Last Labyrinth is currently available for the PlayStation VR and Microsoft Windows. Fans of physical media and creepy VR horror games would be happy to know that the game is currently on sale on the Strictly Limited Games shop. The game comes in two SKUs: the Standard Edition (limited to 2,500 pieces worldwide) and Collector’s Edition (Limited to 1,500 copies worldwide).
We at Hey Poor Player would like to thank Takahashi-san and Derek at PR Hound for making this interview possible.
So, wanna win a copy of the game for yourself yourself? If so, you’re in luck! We have 5 digital PSVR copies of Last Labyrinth to give away. For your chance to win one, be sure to visit our official Hey Poor Player Twitter account.