The Blink-And-You’ll-Miss-It Files #2: Mazes of Fate

Hey guys, can you believe it? Mazes of Fate DS actually arrived. I had plenty of skepticism as to whether or not it would, to be honest; its publisher is the absolute epitome of “fly by night” operation. I’ve tried contacting Graffiti Entertainment several times to arrange coverage of their games for 1UP, and in every case have met with failure. Their emails bounce, their web-based feedback forms time out and fail, their phone numbers are disconnected. Shady doesn’t begin to describe it.

But they clearly do exist, even if they have no interest in making themselves accessible to media who might actually be interested in spreading word of their products, because here’s the game. I’ve been looking forward to this release since I first heard about it, although I rather doubt that more than a handful of gamers have shared my anticipation. It’s very much an under-the-radar release.

In fact, it’s a remake of a game from two years ago, a 3D update of a Game Boy Advance RPG that was sold almost exclusively via eBay. It’s a shame that it received so little exposure, because it’s not a great game by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s definitely decent. It was also quite flawed in its original incarnation, though. I intended to review it for 1UP, but encountered a game-halting bug that prevented me from completing the quest. Hopefully, that won’t be an issue this time around. Certainly this is no straight port — developer Sabarasa has gone and fitted its clunky GBA game with a decent 3D engine. They’ve also expanded the playable roster of characters; I think you could pick from 3 or custom-build a warrior in the original, but now there’s something like seven characters. Each, of course, has various strengths and weaknesses. I’m going with a lady named Katja for my playthrough, as I tend to prefer weak but dextrous characters… and I learned in the GBA game that you can save a lot of money and trouble with a thief-type character as they tend not to go through expensive lock-picks as quickly as the bruisers.

So what’s the big deal about Mazes of Fate? Well, for one, it’s the first Argentinean-developed game that’s ever reached the U.S., so far as I know. But more importantly (well, for me — maybe not so much for the nation of Argentina) is that its first-person exploration whetted my appetite for more portable RPGs of the kind. When a preview ROM of Etrian Odyssey showed up at the office a couple of months later, I was better poised to appreciate its subtleties.

I’d describe Mazes of Fate as the mid-point between Etrian Odyssey and Orcs & Elves — nothing fantastic, but certainly worth an RPG fan’s time. Naturally, Graffiti would go and ship the same week that Dragon Quest IV, the biggest DS RPG in ages, arrives. I’m pretty sure they want that game to fail, because given a choice between the two I definitely have to recommend DQIV. Honestly, though, I feel almost guilty bringing their game to your attention. After all, this post might actually encourage you to buy it, and then the publisher might actually make a little money for their efforts, which is clearly not part of their business plan.

19 thoughts on “The Blink-And-You’ll-Miss-It Files #2: Mazes of Fate

  1. I always thought it would be fun if review scores were based entirely on how badly the company involved needed your money.

    Merus: Your Source For Non Sequiturs (Other Than Wiley Miller)

  2. There definitely seems to be a new trend emerging with really niche-oriented and/or indie flavored games getting published by just… random people off the street. On the one hand, a lot of things that otherwise wouldn’t see releases come out. On the other hand, look what’s been crawling out of the Wii lately by way of established publishers. Makes it a little hard to support the efforts of, say, O3.

  3. I picked up the original for the Game Boy on some decent buzz at a message board, but never got too far into it. I wasn’t planning to pick up this one, since I thought it to be a quick port, but now that I know it has had a decent reworking, I guess I’ll have to grab it.

  4. I kept watching for this, and it kept getting delayed, and I eventually forgot all about it.

    Thanks for the reminder, I’ll probably grab it.

  5. Is this how those ultra lucrative rare-ebay game fortunes are made? Buying like 30 of these games?

    What am I saying. DS games can never be “rare” now that everyone and their mother’s hairdresser pirates them. :/

  6. No, no — I mean that the publisher, Graffiti Entertainment, used eBay as their primary avenue of sales. I bought my GBA copy from an eBay seller named graffiti_sales or somesuch.

  7. Oh, I understood you – I was referring to the fact that games that sell very little but are good, usually become those rare sought-after pieces of gold on ebay.

    The publisher selling on ebay is still kind of hilarious in a rickety wooden shed kinda way, though.

  8. Did you try contacting Sarabasa instead ( They are better established and more likely to be reachable. As I understand it they often team up with smaller groups in order to release stuff. Most recently you might have seen their work in Protöthea for Wiiware, briefly covered in New Game+, originally from developers Digital Builders. Which BTW is also a contender for “first argentinean game to reach the U.S.”, since it won some price in IGF like… 5 years ago? Anyways, there are quite a few argentinean games that are being sold worldwide, though you usually can’t tell as they tend to be released directly through the big online distributors (BigFish and the like).

    Also there are several new argentinean games in the works right now, or so I hear *grin*

  9. I have quite a bit of fondness for the GBA Mazes of Fate. It was rough and buggy, but damn if it didn’t have my undivided attention during all of my lunch breaks and free time for a month. I beat the hell out of that game, and that’s a very rare thing for me. Then I jumped on the EO train, because I figured all of that must mean I think filling out a map is fun. So I look forward to your impresions! Although I wonder if Glorious 3D is enough for me to justify getting a remake. Maybe I should just leave it a pleasant GBA memory, as I’m sure it’s will seem lousy now that I’ve played EO.

    I’m not sure lockpicking is the best investment of points. I guess you will spend less money on picks early on, but eventually you get an unbreakable crowbar and you can just wack away at the lock blindly until it snaps. What was your gamebreaking bug?

  10. I completely forgot to preorder this, which killed my chance of picking it up at Gamestop. I loved Etrian Odyssey and am interested in the Argentine angle, so I’m off to Amazon.

  11. I’m not sure what took them so long. I personally know that review copies of the game existed in complete form back in February or so. They surely didn’t spend all this time in marketing..

    I have doubts that the recently announced C.O.R.E. will every see the light of day…

  12. Actually, haunted-house PC adventure game “Scratches” was made by an Argentine developer called Nucleosys and released in North America by Got Game Entertainment in 2006.

  13. Very nice to hear you comment on what little games come out of my country of origin, Mr. Parish! We aren’t exactly known for making good games (or any games for that matter). Even though I have nothing to with Sabarasa, I could probably get their attention for you if you are interested. I have friends working in various game-developing companies down in Argentina.

  14. OK, so Graffiti’s “wow, first ever Argentinean game!” schtick was a filthy lie, which is apparently the company’s stock in trade. My bad.

  15. So, um, I tried to play this game and couldn’t see the appeal: isn’t it basically like “Deep Labyrinth” with a simpler control scheme and a more dungeon-y setting (and less GIANT AMOUNTS OF LSD)? It’s really surprising that a game akin to Elder Scrolls: Oblivion would find itself described as falling somewhere between a Wizardry descendant and a first-person turn based dungeon crawler.

    I’d say it’s more akin to crossing Metroid Prime Hunters with Diablo 2. And then Metroid fans and Diablo fans would shoot me where I stand.

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