Magic Flute is a 3D puzzler from LabLike where a hero is given a magical tool to help overcome increasingly difficult obstacles on his journey to save a princess from a mysterious villain. While this may sound like a pretty common narrative trope for a video game, it is in fact the basic premise of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 1791 opera The Magic Flute. As a fan of staged opera and its grand spectacle, I was looking forward to seeing how LabLike would use the music, characters and plot devices of Mozart’s own work within their game.
Indeed, Magic Flute will not disappoint opera or puzzle fans.
Mozart’s music and storyline feature prominently in the game. But for anyone concerned about how accessible a game based on an opera might be, rest assured, you’ll find the experience quite familiar. The design of the game is actually based on the staging of a specific contemporary production of the opera; director Amon Miyamoto’s version of The Magic Flute for the Tokyo Nikkai Opera Theatre used the concept of a video game for its own design. LabLike then referenced Miyamoto’s game-based theatrical concept to create their own game. In short, LabLike’s video game is based on an opera designed to feel like a video game. Frankly, if you didn’t know the game was based on an actual opera, you’d likely just think it had a great score.
To progress through the game, you direct your hero Tamino (or his traveling companion Papageno) through a series of levels thematically tied to the plot of the opera. The levels are essentially paths from an entrance to an exit with various obstacles including a devouring snake, crumbling blocks, boulders, etc.. Avoid these obstacles and advance to the exit by moving modular components including tiles, blocks, crates, lifts and more. Swipe to move these components through space and tap to move your characters toward the exit. Each level can be finished in different ways, and it’s quite possible to get stranded with no way out.
If you complete the level within specific time brackets, you’ll receive one, two or three points (denoted by flute holes) depending on your speed. As you progress through the levels, you will reach checkpoints where you’ll need a certain number of points to proceed. If you haven’t collected enough points, you must go back to a previous level and try to complete it faster.
I consider myself to be pretty good at puzzle games, yet I found some of these puzzles to be surprisingly complicated. I had more levels than I’d like to admit where I earned only one point; reaching that first checkpoint and turning back around to eek out some more points was humbling. Gratefully, the game offers a very simple replay mechanic. With no lives to lose, you can simply start the level again to make better time. Once you’ve run through the level a few times, you’ll know how to progress faster and earning those additional points won’t be as difficult. This also gives the game great replay value.
There is an impressive variety to the mechanics and physics manipulation, especially considering the world is essentially a segmented cube with limited movement tracks. Also, as the puzzles become more complex, you’ll need to plan several moves in advance as you would with chess. What begins as a simple path to an exit door becomes a series of convoluted causes and effects which you must anticipate and plot out to succeed.
Most of the grand theatrical pageantry is communicated through the cutscenes, so I would have loved more interactive spectacles in the levels themselves. A notable exception is the fierce undulous snake revealed early on, but most of the game employs a modern, minimalist warehouse aesthetic. That aesthetic does lend itself very well to the modular manipulation of the pathways, and makes the game mechanics familiar even if its operatic inspiration may not be.
Masterful artistry and compelling gameplay ultimately make Magic Flute well worth the price of admission. Puzzle fans will enjoy the beautiful music, a smooth British narrator (is that Paul Bettany?), lush cutscenes, a grand story, clever mechanics and worthy challenges with high replay value.