Maze Hunter 3-D was called Maze Walker in Japan. Not as exciting of a title, but truer to the game’s laid-back style.
This cover is all sorts of horrifying. Get that retired baseball player out of the maze!
RELEASE DATE: 01/31/1988 – (JP), 05/88 – (US), 1988 – (EU)
Maze Hunter 3-D is a top-down action game that is the best excuse for Sega’s 3D Glasses to date – or so I’ve been told by people who have played the game with working 3D Glasses (more on my own ocular woes later in the review). You control a young man around twenty mazes of varying length and difficulty. Armed only with a red bo staff and the occasional special item, you take down legions of randomly generated enemies (many of which look like egg yolks of varying shape, size, and color), while looking for a key to open the exit. Kill enemies, find key, exit, repeat.
Pick up that key if you know what’s good for you…*
The gist of Maze Hunter 3D is to stay alive while you explore the layout of the maze. All of the enemy types have specific patterns, but there’s no telling how many will appear at any given time. I’ve beaten entire levels while only seeing one or two enemies, while other stages have had swarms without end. While your red bo is your main weapon and a fairly effective tool against the enemies (all of which take one hit to kill), you can also get special limited-use weapons – like bombs that clear out the entire screen or two-way shots – from balloons that float by. Other items can be found in question-mark boxes around the maze, like special suits that make you faster or allow you to be hit three times before death (this is a one-hit-kill type of game). There are also special types of shoes which enable you to jump higher, squash enemies, and stay grounded on later ice levels. Any death results in you losing all your special equipment and starting the level over from scratch.
The hero sincerely regrets his decision to become a maze hunter.
Those who have been following this blog for some time know that I have had considerable difficulty in getting my 3D glasses to work properly with any 3D games. Maze Hunter 3-D was no exception. The glasses don’t display 3D – their primary function – but they do sorta, kinda work. Without the glasses, the screen jitterbugs like a couple flappers in a Roaring Twenties speakeasy. When I put them on, however, the game mellows out like octogenarians sitting in rocking chairs on a porch. I was saddened by the lack of 3D in Missile Defense 3-D and Zaxxon 3D, but I feel downright gypped with Maze Hunter. The former two titles were arcade shooters that existed to show off the glasses capabilities, and nothing more. Maze Hunter, however, uses the 3D effects to enhance the game’s foundation, rather than as a crutch to cover up lack of content. Without 3D, I was still able to play the game, but I acknowledged that I was missing a crucial aspect.
Mazes in the jungle? What kind of preposterous flimflam is Sega trying to sell us?
Despite spending considerable time exploring the underground maze circuit, I’m still unsure whether I enjoyed Maze Hunter 3-D. The game – less maze hunting, more maze exploring – moves at a languid pace with no time limit. As a result, it has a rhythm that’s entirely its own, one that’s far removed from Sega’s typical fast-paced arcade titles. The hero himself seems relaxed when confronted with handfuls of enemies. As the game ventured on, however, I kept waiting for more objectives, better items, something else that expanded upon the maze wandering concept. 3D could have been that “something else,” but unless I purchase either a different TV, different glasses or both, I won’t know for certain. Still, lack of 3D aside, I just couldn’t shake the notion that Maze Hunter 3-D could have been great instead of merely interesting.