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Interview: Last Labyrinth Director Hiromichi Takahashi Talks PSVR, Puzzles, and the Future

Last Labyrinth is a PSVR puzzle game by Amata K.K, and it’s set to get a limited edition physical release via Strictly Limited Games. We got the chance to ask a few questions to the game’s director, Hiromichi Takahashi, in preparation for Last Labyrinth’s Strictly Limited release.

PP: There are some big names attached to this project such as, yourself,  Director Hiromichi Takahashi, Co-Director Tetsuya Watanabe, and Lead Animator Atsuko Fukuyama among others. Who initially spearheaded the idea of Last Labyrinth, and why did you decide to make an escape-the-room game for VR?

I was very interested in VR, and also wanted to create a game based on the idea of communicating with virtual partner characters.

I also wanted to feature the life-like animations that Fukuyama-san did, so that’s where the idea for the game, communicating and working together with your partner character to solve puzzles in a VR, came from.

PP: What are the major obstacles/problems in creating a VR game as oppose to a standard game – how does your planning, creation and scripting change?

In VR, there’s no “camera view”, meaning the player can look around and see everything in real-time, just like in real life, and so you can’t use the familiar “cut-scene” methods to force players to look at certain things like other regular games. This was a big obstacle for us. On the flip side, if we could handle this aspect well, it would add strongly to the players sense of immersion, which was a merit of VR.

PP: Katia is our way of interacting with the world of Last Labyrinth. Why did you choose to create her as opposed to allowing players to directly interact with the puzzles?

Last Labyrinth isn’t only about puzzles, it’s a mix of different elements. One of them is the idea of portraying the relationship of trust and communication between the player and a partner character.

Since the player is trapped in a wheelchair, they have no choice but to rely on Katia to escape. We thought of using puzzle-solving as a medium to show the relationship of trust between them.

PP: Can you describe the experience on offer in a couple of sentences for our readers

– Communicating and puzzle-solving with a mysterious girl

– The fear of death

– The feelings of loss and guilt

– Anxiety and relief

PP: Non-verbal communication between Katia and “Phantom” is a core part of Last Labyrinth’s game mechanics. How do the player and Katia “communicate” with each other?

The game controls are simple. When the player points the laser pointer at an object, Katia will go and investigate or use the object for the player. On the other hand, when Katia is asking for the players opinion, such as whether or not to use the object, the player simply shakes or nods their head to reply Yes or No. What’s interesting is that just by using these simple moves to solve puzzles, players start to feel a sense of “communicating” with Katia, which leads to a deeper sense of bonding as well.

PP: Are they any features in the or decisions made in the creation of the game that you have to consider to appeal to both the Japan market and western gamers?

The choice to use “non-verbal” communication, meaning no real words or language, was part of our plan to appeal to both Japan and Western markets. By not relying on words from any language, anyone from any country can enjoy it equally. On top of that, we wanted players to experience that slight feeling of nervousness and unease, like they’re arriving in a country where they don’t speak the language at all.

PP: The deaths in Last Labyrinth are very creative and surprising, especially a certain giant creature that comes out of the ceiling. There’s no question here. I just wanted to say I enjoyed them. 

Thank you!

PP: Creating sound for a PSVR game is different than a 2D game. Could you talk about the approach Takuya Hanaoka took in designing the sound for Last Labyrinth?

Hanaoka-san used various types of materials and samples to create sound effects that would give a sense of realness and immersion in VR, and then used 3D acoustic effects to make the players hear them.

The sound made by the “death traps” were particularly important in making them seem lifelike. When players not only see, but hear the sounds made by the “death traps”, it adds a lot to the sense of realness, and amplifies that feeling of fear and death for players.

PP: Have you been pleased with the response and success of Labyrinth and are there aspects of the game that have taken you by surprise?

Yes. Last Labyrinth offers a very unique experience, with very few similar VR titles, and we’re very happy that players around the world have enjoyed it. We’re also proud that Last Labyrinth was nominated for and won several awards, including the Webby Awards and Laval Virtual Award.

PP: If you can talk about it, what is next for Amata K.K.? Will we see another escape-the-room game, another VR project, or something completely different?

While we have plans for new games on VR and consoles, there’s nothing we can announce at the moment. However we’re not a company that focuses solely on “escape-room” games, so if we do make a new game, it most likely won’t be in the same genre. In the future, as Amata, we’d like to continue providing new and unique experiences with our titles, just like Last Labyrinth.

PP: Last Labyrinth is to be released in a physical boxed collections version on ps4 by SLG what extra goodies are on offer for collectors and why did you decide on this?

With our Strictly Limited Games release we worked closely together with Amata K.K. to create something unique for the Western physical release of Last Labrinth.  As per usual, there will be a physical Limited Standard Edition for 39,99€ with a unique, reversible cover art and individual numbering. With the Collector’s Edition that will be available for 69,99€, we decided to include exclusive items that will please collectors and fans. With the candle, we also wanted to have an item that will take this already very immersive experience to the next level by allowing the player to not only see the rooms in the mansion, but also to smell the environment you are trying to escape from:

  • Last Labyrinth game for PlayStation 4
  • Collector’s box with a magnetic latch
  • Hardcover Artbook
  • Making-Of Blu-Ray
  • Keychain
  • Scented Candle
  • Large Poster
  • Laser Pointer
  • Character Cards
  • Stefanie Joosten autographed card
  • Sticker sheet

We also have an awesome, high-quality art card for 9,99€. You can find all the editions in our store: https://store.strictlylimitedgames.com/collections/last-labyrinth. Pre-orders will be open starting on Sunday, 29. November 2020 at 12 AM (midnight) CET.

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