The ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur in the labyrinth is a classic tale of terror, awe, and a hero overcoming all the odds. In the old stories, the Minotaur is half-bull and half-man, imprisoned in a labyrinth on the island of Crete, and Theseus navigates the maze to kill the monster. It feels that this story has become the template for many games over the decades. DOOM or even early Wolfenstein have huge elements of the tale, and in 1981 the hit Monster maze took the same idea but replaced the Minotaur with a dinosaur. TAURONOS however puts you in the shoes of a hero and takes us back to the Greek roots where you are hunted by the hybrid beast – it’s up to you to find the centre, kill the creature, and escape. Are you up to the challenge?
TAURONOS is a top-down action-adventure that puts you in the sandals of an ancient hero. You find yourself in a labyrinth and are being hunted by one relentless foe – a Minotaur. The game is set over six chapters and has upwards of 40 levels, with you starting each at the beginning of a maze, left to find the exit on the other side. The story and the purpose of who you are is told in fragments, some flashbacks, and some excellent encounters with gods. In fact, the hero narrates his journey poetically and interestingly throughout, questioning the journey and his foe.
You only have one enemy to deal with in TAURONOS, that being the Minotaur as he slowly stalks you on your journey. You have to try and avoid him as you progress, yet there are many things in the maze that will slow you down – traps. These can come in the form of classic arrows coming through a wall, ensuring that you have to time your movement to get through. Then there are points where huge, swinging boulders on chains fly through the air, trying to crush you. There are also moments where you are presented with rubble on the floor blocking the way forward; press a button and over a short period of time the rubble gets cleared. This time taken however is crucial if the Minotaur is right behind you breathing down your neck, or if you also have to dodge arrows at the same time as clearing the rubble. It’s a tricky business being a hero.
But not everything is out to destroy you; some items can help your progression in the maze. There are strange plant devices that allow you to see a vision, pinpointing where the Minotaur is at this moment in the maze, and things like this are especially helpful in the later levels. There are switches you can interact with too, slowing down and stunning the Minotaur to give you some extra time. Further, expect to stumble upon secret passages which hold extra items that can help you; stamina boosts, or strength, or a much-needed health boost throughout the game. At all times however you will have to balance whether it’s worth getting the item or wasting valuable time that could be used escaping.
There is a real danger of dying in this journey and escaping the horned beast is a tricky affair. When you die, you have several continues to use depending on the difficulty level you chose, yet when they have been used… game over. You’re left to start the whole progress from the beginning again, including – rather strangely – the tutorial. Now some of you reading this will love this experience and relish the threat of the restart to make your gaming life more exhilarating. I’m afraid this reviewer hates it as I don’t want to start from the beginning in any game ever again, and I certainly don’t want to replay whole sections and retread old paths. As you can guess, this particular aspect of TAURONOS has made my experience somewhat jaded. And that is a big shame.
Visually and things are delivered in an old-school top-down view; one that makes playing feel like something ripped from the 1990’s PC scene. It’s something that I have enjoyed and what has been done with the tech and visual style is done very well indeed, including a nice sequence when you are being lured into a trap by one of the gods. The soundtrack is simple and the voice-over has an overly dramatic epic quality that I really enjoyed.
TAURONOS on Xbox is a game that I have enjoyed playing, particularly due to its old-school visuals and fascinating take on the old great myth. I like the idea of being stalked by one creature and experiencing a hero’s strange journey to escape the maze. However, some of the traps are utterly unforgiving and having to restart the game from the beginning makes things tiresome. But there will be some sadists and proper gamers out there who will love those elements, and as it’s a fairly cheap game to pick up, if you feel you can tame the beast then TAURONOS is the one for you.