A Puzzling Tongue Twister: Dr Kobushi’s Labyrinthine Laboratory Review

The title is just as puzzling as the puzzles, but that's a good thing. Dr Kobushi's Labyrinthine Laboratory out now on Steam for those who like Falafel.

Dr Kobushi’s Labyrinthine Laboratory has been quite a pleasant surprise. Getting the review code seemed like it was off the tail-end of the write-up for Akurra, and I’m cool with that as it means I’ve been introduced to a game I perhaps would never have heard of, let alone played.

From Symbolic Software, you play as Ayla on a mission to rescue her dog Falafel. For some reason, I thought that Falafel was the antagonist, but there’s a hint in the title: it’s Dr Kobushi. He’s a bit of a swine and really quite mad. His introduction put me off a little as the dialogue window is cluttered and primarily written with the caps lock on. See? Mad.

After a steady intro, it became apparent what kind of game this was. It’s sort of a sokoban but arguably a little more accessible. That’s not necessarily because Dr Kobushi’s Labyrinthine Laboratory is easy (it’s not!). Still, once your eyes get accustomed to the rather lavish level design, it’s more a case of planning your strategy than bashing your head against the wall because you don’t get it.

Dr Kobushi's Labyrinthine Laboratory Review - I say
I say! Source: Steam

Dr Kobushi’s Labyrinthine Laboratory Review

Using a top-down perspective, you guide Ayla through a contained room of sorts and have to collect keys and activate switches. You can do each stage in unlimited moves, but it is turn-based, and often you’ll have robot enemies sharing the tiles with you, and they either have more action points or some nasty little weapon that will take you out pretty darn quick. If anything, the enemies in the game will likely put off most borderline casuals.

Though I made that bold statement that Dr Kobushi’s Labyrinthine Laboratory is accessible, it is still brutally tough, and at the time of writing this review, I haven’t finished. Yes, it’s true: you can’t complete every game when you review them, so get off my case. Applying a bit of a casual attitude to play, I’d exit the game when I got stuck and return to it afresh and more likely to find the solution. If you play each stage one after the next, it may test your patience – at least with the dialogue elements, which can be irritating at best.

That said, this is a decent indie puzzle game, but drawing upon that borderline casual reference, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for kids. The controls and mechanics are easy to learn, but my girls didn’t get on with this at all. I haven’t conducted any practical research and asked other kids, so this could be wrong, but mine are pretty adept, and it was a tad too frustrating for them.

With over 100 odd levels in the game, Dr Kobushi’s Labyrinthine Laboratory will keep you busy. Even with this review updated (you won’t be able to tell – I’m posting in one go), I still haven’t finished it but will dip into it when time permits. Alas, this didn’t work at all on the Steam Deck [edit: it DOES work with the latest update!]. If it had, it might have been my pre-dinner game, as I like a good puzzle on the sofa(!). Anyhoo, check out the reviews and weigh up if it’s for you. I did receive the code for free, but irrespective of that, all of the above is accurate from my perspective.