Amata’s virtual-reality puzzle adventure Last Labyrinth (opens in new tab) boasts an all-star cast list. Stefanie Joosten (opens in new tab), best known for playing the sniper Quiet in Metal Gear Solid 5 (opens in new tab), sings the VR puzzle game’s theme song and provides the voice for the lead character, Katia. However, you don’t play as Katia; the player character is in a wheelchair and can only move their head. You might think this is hardly the ideal scenario to encourage team work, but you’ll have to make the most of your circumstances. With the laser pointer strapped to your cap, you can look and point to areas of interest for Katia to investigate and hopefully trigger something that will spring you both from the trap you find yourselves in.
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This is the first original title developed and published solely by Amata (opens in new tab), and the company’s turned to Kickstarter (opens in new tab) in order to expand its limited marketing budget. “We have almost no experience when it comes to marketing, particularly outside of Japan,” producer and director Hiromichi Takahashi candidly admits, telling us, “we figured crowdfunding on Kickstarter would be a great way to get more people to know about Last Labyrinth, so that’s why we decided to try it. It turns out that the news about Last Labyrinth doing a Kickstarter project got picked up by quite a few VR media outlets, both in Japan and abroad.”
Inspiration from real-life escape rooms
Takahashi-san says, “When it comes to VR games, I think that the medium has the potential to create experiences that you normally couldn’t get through ordinary games, but I don’t think there are many titles that provide that at the moment. I also felt that there was a lack of VR titles that have a uniquely Japanese style.” He modestly adds, “We just so happen to be a Japanese game studio with a lot of veteran developers, so I figured we’d take care of both of those issues at the same time.”
Takahashi-san tells us members of the team are fans of real-life escape rooms. However, they looked further afield for inspiration as they wanted to find ways of enhancing the sense of presence a player feels in VR. Takahashi says that he is a fan of classic point-and-click games, naming Myst (opens in new tab) and Full Throttle specifically, and notes that this may have had an influence on the game. With your laser pointer as one of your few points of interaction, we feel the game speaks for itself.
An all-star development team
Alongside Stefanie Joosten’s vocals, the theme song features the talents of composer Hiroki Kikuta, known for his work on a number of titles, including Secret Of Mana. They’re not the only big names either. Takahashi says, “We’re a small team, which means we understand one another, and the game is designed to bring out the full potential of each members’ skills and experiences.” Takahashi-san himself is known in Japan for the Doko Demo Issho (or ‘Together Anywhere’) series, starring Toro the Sony cat. Lead environment artist Michiko Kusaba has worked on a number of Gran Turismo titles, and sound designer Takuya Hanaoka is known for the Monster Rancher and Super Robot Wars series. Game designer Tetsuya Watanabe (opens in new tab) worked on The Last Guardian, and the Team Ico connection continues with Atsuko Fukuyama as the lead character animator. She handled Yorda and Argo the horse’s animation.
Takahashi tells us “[Fukuyama’s] animations are incredibly detailed, and it’s thanks to her that Katia can express her personality and emotions just through her actions and movements.” Of Katia herself, Takahashi-san elaborates, “We wanted her design to capture that strange age when a young girl would want others to stop treating her like a kid. Katia’s animations also reflect this, making some of her actions look like those of a child, but also those of an adult at the same time.” You’ll get to know the green-haired girl and unravel the mystery of Last Labyrinth this summer 2019 when it debuts on PS VR, Oculus Rift and Vive.
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