Omega Labyrinth Life review: Dull fanservice hides a decent dungeon crawler

Rightly or wrongly, almost all of the discussion around Omega Labyrinth Life has been focused on its controversial approach to sexual content. After all, the whole premise of the series is about exploring dungeons with women whose breasts get bigger and bigger as they accumulate “omega power” and get stronger. Indeed, “Omega” in the title seems to stem purely from the fact that the lowercase version of the Greek letter kinda looks a bit like a pair of boobs if you use a bit of imagination (or stick some artwork of a woman’s face and bust behind it).

Needless to say, this series has had a turbulent history in the West. The PS4 and PS Vita game Omega Labyrinth Z was originally planned for a North American and European release before ultimately being canned by the Western publisher, PQube, in order to “comply with the wishes of the platform holder”. This didn’t deter the series’ Japanese publisher, D3, from taking Western publishing matters into its own hands with Omega Labyrinth Life for Nintendo Switch, alongside a toned-down PS4 version simply called “Labyrinth Life”. (The PS4 version was toned down for the Japanese release, too—a fact that D3 made no small amount of marketing mileage from in Japan.)

The irony of all this is that all the lewd “fanservice” elements of Omega Labyrinth Life are awful, and it would be a much better game without them. I don’t mean this in the sense that they’re offensive or objectionable—though some people certainly will find them to be, and more power to those people—but they just serve very little purpose and ultimately detract from what is a very good game underneath. 

Well designed, well thought out fanservice can be magnificent. Bayonetta is wall to wall titillation, but it’s all in the context of a game that has sexuality—specifically, the main character’s complete, unashamed ownership of her own sexuality—as a central theme. A game like Gal*Gun: Double Peace uses over-the-top lewdness as the cornerstone of a satirisation of the whole concept of fanservice. Some games are simply sexy for the sake of being sexy, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Omega Labyrinth Life is none of these things; it feels as though the thought that went into it began and ended with “boobs!”. The result of that is minigames where you play rock-paper-scissors by yanking a pair of disembodied boobs all over the place, for some reason, or where you have to slide a phallic object up and down between that same pair of disembodied breasts  in order to figure out what item is contained inside.

It’s not clever, it’s not funny, and it’s not sexy. If fanservice is none of these things, then what’s even the point? It’s tedious, more than anything—why spend time playing some sort of aimless breast-grabbing minigame as a way of choosing paper instead of just pressing a corresponding button?

The thing is, there’s actually a very good game underneath all that. Omega Labyrinth Life is a top-down dungeon crawler in the style of the Mystery Dungeon games; that is to say, it sees you venturing through floor after floor of procedurally-generated dungeons, hoping that the randomised loot you find along the way will help you out. Survival means doing the best with whatever cards you’re dealt, and strategically using the turn-based navigation system to your advantage; death means having to start whichever dungeon you’re currently exploring right from the beginning again, with a new set of random layouts for each floor. Whether through dying or just from finishing one section of the game and moving onto the next, each new dungeon sees your characters start at level 1, but permanent upgrades come in the form of new skills learnt and weapons and armour found along the way. 

Omega Labyrinth Life doesn’t do too much to mess with this timeless dungeon crawling formula, but it does add a rather relaxing element of life simulation in between runs. The game takes place in a school built around a giant flower garden, and tending to this garden by planting flower patches and harvesting nectar is helpful for strengthening your party. More importantly, though, it’s just provides a nice bit of downtime where you can just potter about and make your garden look pretty.

There’s a story running through all of this too, but frankly, it’s completely forgettable. You play as a new student at some sort of girls-only academy built around a magical flower garden, but your arrival coincides with the whole garden beginning to wilt. To stop that, you have to delve into various dungeons in search of flower spirits who can bring life back to the garden, and … that’s about it. There’s nothing memorable about any of the characters, either; each one is either a most basic iteration of an anime cliche that never amounts to more than that, or just completely devoid of anything even resembling a personality.

If you can ignore the bland story and pointless, tedious attempts at fanservice, there’s a decent game at the heart of Omega Labyrinth Life. It’s a classic dungeon crawler that knows what makes the genre tick and delivers on that well—assuming you like stuff like the Mystery Dungeon games, this one will scratch that same itch. But considering how much attention has been given to Omega Labyrinth‘s lewd nature, I’m genuinely surprised at just how far short it falls of actually doing anything interesting with its premise. 

Matthew Codd

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.