Publisher: Idea Factory International
Developer: Idea Factory/Compile Heart
Medium: Digital/Vita Card
Within moments of starting up MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death, your busty, scantily clad teenage girl encounters another busty, scantily-clad teenage girl. Shortly after that, you encounter a few more busty, scantily clad teenage girls, and you discover that it's your job to save the world from a demon invasion. By that point, you'll probably assume you know everything the game has to offer.
And yet, in some small, limited way, MeiQ is actually kind of surprising. It may seem like your typical fanservice-heavy dungeon-crawler from Japan, but it's really not. Yes, the heroines are all dressed in ways that are wildly inappropriate for going into battle, but that's about the extent of this game's transgressions against good taste. There's no hints of titillating lesbianism. The pre-pubescent girl really is a pre-pubescent girl, not some ancient demon or fairy or something, and she behaves more or less like a playful young girl, rather than some horrifyingly sexualized lolita fantasy. There's no single-entendres or innuendos in sight. MeiQ even resists the temptation to show its heroines bathing, even though it has a bath-related plot point just sitting there for everyone to see. In other words, it's all surprisingly wholesome.
Unfortunately, it's also pretty dull. While I appreciate not cringing my way through dialogue that tries to be playful and sexy but is actually neither of those things, it would've been nice if they'd replaced the entendre and innuendo with something that vaguely resembled compelling character development. Instead all you get here is boring info dumps, and seemingly every conversation ends with everyone involved saying "Bye" to each other. The former is as tedious as it sounds, and the latter, while true to life, is just boring to see play out, considering some of the conversations feature five or six people.
In fact, nearly everything in MeiQ could be described as tedious and/or boring. The dungeons are entirely forgettable, full of endless hallways that have very little in the way of personality. The monsters, too, get awfully repetitive really quickly. Even the combat, which features some interesting ideas, ends up being less-than-compelling.
I don't want to totally dismiss those ideas out of hand, though. They should count for something, right? I like the idea of your heroine travelling through the dungeon with giant robot guardian, and I like how the game has its own version of element-based rock/paper/scissors that helps determine how effective your attacks will be. I really liked seeing my robot guardian busting out a giant gun and laying waste to nearly everything in my way.
The thing is, it all gets old fast. There are only so many times you can grind your way through battle after battle in a quest to level up so you can beat each dungeon's end boss before it starts feeling like you're just doing the same thing over and over again with little reward. Good intentions are nice, but good gameplay is even more important, and unfortunately MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death has lots of the former but very little of the latter.