Friday, June 16, 2023

Game 492: Labyrinth Master (1989)

The game begins.
Labyrinth Master
United States
Independently developed; published by T&D Subscription Software
Released 1989 for TRS-80 Color Computer
Date Started: 12 June 2023
Date Ended: 12 June 2023
Total Hours: 1
Difficulty: Very Easy-Easy (1.5/5)
Final Rating: 7
Ranking at Time of Posting: 10/508 (2%)
If you lived in the 1980s, had a personal computer, loved video games, and had a budget of $70 a year, you had a choice. You could buy maybe two AAA titles from the most respected developers, like Dragon Wars (Interplay) or Hero's Quest (Sierra), or you could buy a disk subscription from a company like T&D Subscription Software. They would send you a disk a month with 10 programs on it. In December 1989, your disk would have had:
  1. Music 4 Voice
  2. Honeycomb
  3. Point of Sale
  4. Orbs Adventure
  5. IBM - COCO
  6. Civil War
  7. List Utilities
  8. Break-in Coco III
  9. Labyrinth Master
  10. Color Car Action
Mugging a skeleton.
We don't know what most of these are. Some are clearly non-games and some just haven't been analyzed and entered into any databases. Thankfully, of over a thousand titles T&D published over the years, Labyrinth Master and Monsters and Magic (1988), which I reviewed in December, are the only two that anyone has (so far) tagged as RPGs.
Giant floating eye.
Labyrinth Master kind-of passes the test, but just barely. It's credited to a Jay Braxmaier, who also wrote a T&D game called Night of the Ninja (1989). When the game begins, the character is dropped in the corner of a tiled, three-dimensional dungeon. His goal is to kill all the monsters in the dungeon. The monsters, which are found in fixed locations and do not move, consist of skeletons, giant floating eyes, minotaurs, and medusas. Every enemy he kills adds a bit to his strength, and every other enemy he kills, up to the eighth, gives him a new piece of equipment. Equipment adds to strength and maximum hit points.
The titular labyrinth.
At the beginning of the game, you're only strong enough to kill skeletons. Fortunately, you can push past other monsters that try to block your path. The second slain enemy gives you a shield, the fourth a sword, the sixth a helm, and the eighth a suit of armor. You can get those items from the four skeletons in the first half of the labyrinth. Frankly, by the time you have the helm, you're strong enough to take on any enemy in the maze. Once you figure this out, winning takes about 15 minutes, most of it spent waiting for health to recharge after battles.
Combat involves mashing the "A" button--the game's only control other than arrows for movement. You get no visual feedback during combat. If you've timed things right, the enemy poofs out of existence before your health meter disappears.
Your "kills" meter fills up with every kill. It reaches its apex when you've slain the last enemy. At that point, how does the game reward you? It freezes! (I don't mean there's a bug; I think the game was designed to just stop the moment the meter is full.) This is the same thing that happens when you die. Here, the game teaches that victory and death are two sides of the same coin. 
As soon as this combat is over, the game will end.
The only way this game could be remotely challenging is if you're too dumb to figure out the pattern. You might take on a giant eye for your fist battle, lose, and think, "Wow, this game is hard." So I guess the game teaches that when you run into an insurmountable obstacle, just leave it alone for now and come back later when you're stronger. Good life advice, that. Another thing it teaches is to spend your $70 on the two AAA games instead.

This one was pretty short, so I'll have the next in a day or so rather than the usual 2.5 days.


  1. Speaking of Monsters and Magic (game 477 in your numbering), I can't find it on your master list. What I can find is the similarly named Monsters & Magic (game 448) but that's a completely different game.

    While I was checking that, I also noticed that Castlevania 2 (game 446) is listed as unplayed.

  2. Well, you also had the option to rent the games from Egghead and make unauthorized copies... *whistles innocently*

  3. The adventures have been thoroughly catalogued from T&D. There are quite a few of them (77), including Police Cadet 1 through 5 and The Cavern of the “Oh No!”

    I have one coming for 1982, not sure yet if I should be dreading it, but even the rubbish has been fun this year somehow.

    1. The rubbish games usually generate fun reviews. There is less to say about a well-designed game.

    2. That is very true, the older stubs of games, mostly from before 1990 are truly fascinating! I love to see them in action when you all and the Addict play through them. And even better... I can play them vicariously through your blogs!

    3. As the idiot who documented every one of those games, I can tell you disk mags typically included at least one text adventure every month. I've spent years documenting them, and haven't even scratched the surface. RPGs are a much rarer beast.

  4. The game at least looks charming, bonus points for being thorough with the diskmag-titles...

    1. This may sound surprising, but that was actually legal in some countries. There were actual shops since the 80s copying cassettes, and then diskettes, into the 90s.

  5. Imagine getting this disk as a kid and being greeted with stuff like "Point of Sale"

  6. I have to wonder if any other RPGs were coming out for the TRS-89 CoCo in 1989, let alone Sierra or Interplay/Electronic Arts titles. The choice between a games magazine subscription or two AAA games per year would probably be a harder one for DOS/Atari ST/Amiga gamers, but I get the feeling that CoCo owners would have to choose between a games magazine subscription or... 0 games per year.

    1. Point taken. I should have picked games for the same platform. For $70, you could have gotten Paladin's Legacy and The Seventh Link, both released the same year.

    2. But I admit they're not exactly "AAA" games.

  7. Clearly inspired by Ultima I, with the right hand side of the map being almost identical to a rotated version of the left hand side.

    That skeleton really looks like it's being mugged. And the minotaur looks like it just found two cents lying on the floor.

    1. I'm trying to see what you're talking about with the Ultima comparison, but I can't.

    2. In Ultima 1, there were 4 continents, but I recall recently reading a comment pointing out that they were all rotations (and maybe flips?) of one proto-continent, with some variations overlaid on each. Probably to save memory...

    3. Yes, the shape of the map reminded me of that discussion. Here, everything including the exits lines up except for the small part in the upper right. I'm pretty sure it has little to do with saving memory in this case.

    4. Oh, got it. This isn't my day for reading comprehension, it seems. You said "map," but for some reason, I was thinking "game window."

  8. What's a T&D game? Google says Truth or Dare, which I am having a hard time connecting to Night of the Ninja.


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