Litil Divil: Maps

Like many other maze-themed games, Litil Divil makes it basically essential to draw a map. Oh, it has an automap that fills in as you explore, but it only shows a meager 8×8 section of the maze at a time (in maps that can be in the neighborhood of 40 tiles on a side), and doesn’t communicate essential information like “How do I get back to that one puzzle room that I think I have the resources to solve now?” Back when I played this game for the first time, I drew crude schematics of the maze, just lines showing how things connected, bendy in places because they weren’t drawn to scale. That was okay in practical terms, and acceptable when I was just playing a game I had picked from a bargain bin. But when I’m looking at closing out a twenty-year pretend obligation? That feels momentous enough to warrant something tile-accurate, drawn on an actual grid.

The game makes some attempt at thwarting this: one spot in maze 2 pulls the old Infinite Hallway trick, periodically teleporting you backward inconspicuously until you get suspicious and turn around to see if you’ve actually gotten anywhere. But for the most part, the only thing getting in the way of accurate maps is the mere fact that it’s hard to tell how long a long, featureless corridor is. Your movement isn’t bound to the grid, so the only good way to tell when you’ve advanced to the next tile is to look at the automap — and you can’t even tell then, if the map view looks the same centered on the next tile as on the current one.

The game also discourages simply taking the time to draw more than rudimentary maps, by having Mutt’s health bar steadily drain all the time when you’re in the corridors. It should be understood that health is purely a corridor thing; it’s not reflected in the challenge rooms at all, not even the combat challenges, which effectively have their own per-room health. Challenges do affect health, though: completing one restores a large measure of it, and leaving a room without completing it takes some away. To minimize loss, you should always go to a challenge you can win by the most direct route available, avoiding any traps along the way, and win it in one try. In practice, it makes more sense to visit the maze’s save room whenever you beat a room that you don’t want to repeat. But directness is important regardless. You know what helps with that? Maps.

The overall effect is that I always leave the save room with specific intent. Either I’m exploring, and expect to die in the halls, or I’m trying to do something specific and concrete, like beating a room or looping over a known sequence of hallways to collect the treasure, and then make it back to the save room alive.

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