While the Wizardry series of dungeon-crawling games was big in the West back in the early days of PC gaming, they never really caught on in a mainstream sense. In Japan, however, people went nuts over this sort of first-person dungeon crawl and continue to do so. This has led to popular games like the Etrian Odyssey series and other similar titles; those tend to get localized and we end up remaining in dungeon crawl heaven on both sides of the world. MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death is another of these adventures that’s made the trip overseas.
It turns out that all our ideas about geology and astronomy were in fact completely wrong! Planets run on giant wind-up keys that can become unwound, causing the rotation of the world to stop and plunging everything into an endless night. MeiQ has you controlling Estra, a Machina Mage tasked with finding the Planet Key and rewinding it so the world will start again. She doesn’t have to go it alone, of course, since there are several other Machina Mages who’ll team up with her to get the job done…though cooperation might not be as easy as it seems at first.
If you’ve played any of the usual Wizardry-style dungeon crawls that are popular in Japan, you’ve got an idea of what MeiQ is like. You’ll explore dungeons from a first-person perspective, mapping your way as you go and doing your best to avoid traps. Every so often you’ll run into battles; as Machina Mages, your characters control mechanical creatures called Guardians that keep them safe in battle. Combat features both the Mages and their Guardians, allowing you to switch between them as you like.
Guardians tend to be a little more physically powerful, allowing them to take more damage and dish out more pain where necessary, while Mages have more magical and support abilities. While a Mage can physically attack as well, it’s unwise; they’re open to direct attack at that point, so having them cast spells where a Guardian can protect them is ideal. You’ll also need to customize your Guardians on a part-by-part basis to get the best possible performance out of them, as well as changing your Mages’ gear (and Estra’s costume) to adjust stats to your needs at the time. None of these systems is especially difficult to comprehend and I never found MeiQ to be a very difficult game, but more gameplay options are always nice. You can even collect materials and craft your own Guardian parts!
Possibly the most interesting thing about MeiQ is that the game was essentially banned from sale in Australia after being refused classification by that country’s ratings board. This is, apparently, tied to comments made by the youngest character Connie. Hilariously, aside from these comments and the typically Idea Factory design of the characters, this is possibly the most innocent game that the company has localized. Obvious opportunities for fanservice are simply passed up and so far as I can tell sexual innuendo is rare at most. MeiQ earns its Teen rating, which might make the game a little more appetizing to the average player.
MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death doesn’t try very hard to stand out; it’s an enjoyable dungeon crawl with some good ideas that will probably always be best known for the Australian censorship controversy shenanigans. Still, fans of Idea Factory games and this genre in particular could certainly do worse. Despite the whole censorship thing, this is actually one of the least risque games I’ve seen from this company, so you don’t need to feel all that bad about taking a look.