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‘D&D Computer Labyrinth’ – A Game of Wasted Potential

4 Minute Read
Apr 3 2024
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The D&D Computer Labyrinth cover art immediately lets you know the designers were up to something very good.

When humanity creates some new technology, it tends to creep into every facet of life. We get stone tools, and suddenly, every Homo Erectus just needs the Sharpened Rock 12S™.

So when in the early 1980s, microchips and Dungeons and Dragons were both gaining attention as fun new toys, humanity does what it does best. They asked, “What if we combined these two great things? Certainly, the result will be even better?”


Name one time humanity has ever been wrong before.

Released in 1980 by Mattel, the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game was everything you’d come to expect to be annoyed by with early electronic board games. What started as a pretty neat idea, just doesn’t pan out overall when actually sitting down to play.

D&D Computer Labyrinth Gameplay

D&D Computer Labyrinth is a head-to-head or solo pick-up-and-deliver exploration game. The objective of the game is to explore the labyrinthine dungeon and escape with the dragon’s hidden treasure.

Also, the dragon, the treasure, and the entire labyrinth are all invisible. Good luck!

All images via Board Game Geek

The idea is that the players are having to discover the labyrinth as they move through it. Each time they play, the computer will generate a new, random labyrinth. Except the labyrinth is also invisible, so the only way to figure it out is to bump into walls like a doofus.

Players move up to 8 spaces on their turn. With each move, the player presses the space they are moving into like a button. The computer will beep good or boop bad, signifying if the move was successful or ended prematurely via wall stoppage. Once a player finds a wall, they place a wall marker there.

Fortunately, there is a hint to know when you’re getting close to the treasure. That hint is when the invisible dragon awakens.


Like the Predator But With Wings

When any player ends their turn within 3 squares of the treasure, the dragon will awaken and start moving towards the closest player to chomp them down. The game suggests players work together to map out as much of the labyrinth as they can before they wake the dragon. But, they have no idea where the dragon is so, great advice Mattel!

The dragon can move diagonally (unlike the players), fly over walls (unlike the players), and remain invisible the whole game (unlike the players). Suffice it to say that the dragon has a few advantages.

If the dragon catches either player, they are sent back to their starting location and become Wounded. Players can become wounded three times before they are dead and removed from the game. But since this game doesn’t pull any invisible punches, each time a player is wounded, their movement is reduced by 2, from 8 to 6, then 6 to 4, then dead.

Plus, the dragon never stops hunting! Good luck!

If a player does manage to find the treasure (without it being stolen by the other player, which is also an option) and can return to their starting space, they win!


Final Review

This game is a great example of a great idea executed poorly. The idea of a dungeon crawler where the dungeon changes each time is awesome! But, basically, every step of the way, the game fails. It forces you to clumsily toddle around, simultaneously hoping and dreading that you stumble too close to the treasure and, thus, the dragon.

I did manage to find a Flash version of the game and played a few solo rounds.

That’s right. I reinstalled Flash just for this. You can’t say I don’t suffer for my craft.

Out of the dozen or so games I played, I found the treasure 2 times and never got remotely close to returning to my base. The game uses the dragon mini to help players attempt to know where the dragon might be, but I was always wildly off the base of where I thought the dragon was. It’s a ghost in the Flash version.

It’s a shame this turned out the way it did because this very easily could have been a more different Dark Tower. But alas.

I want some of whatever that dragon from the cover art is on.

Author: Matt Sall
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