This Way Madness Lies Review - Brevity is the Soul of Wit
Updated: Jul 7
This Way Madness Lies
This Way Madness Lies is the latest game from Zeboyd, developers of very silly RPGs like Cthulhu Saves Christmas. Difficult as it is to top that for silliness, I think they've managed to do it with a game that is basically the result of cramming Sailor Moon, Shakespeare, and yet more Cthulhu into a particle collider. It easily could've been too dumb to be coherent, but it's self-aware enough to tell a good story despite the complete absurdity of everything that happens. And it does it all in as little as five hours, which is remarkable.
Gameplay will be immediately familiar to anyone who has played any of Zeboyd's previous games. You wander around mazelike dungeons with overworld enemy groups (as seen in Chrono Trigger) and alternate between finding treasure chests and fighting those enemies. Abilities can be used freely since there's no SP, but most require you to rest a turn before they recharge. I'm sure this makes for a very interesting system on higher difficulties when combined with all the different active and passive skills you can equip, but it fell into a loop of using the same abilities in every battle on easy. I'd have appreciated a way to speed up or skip combat since it wasn't what I was playing for in the first place, but thankfully combat sections are brief enough that it never became too grating.
When you're not fighting or exploring dungeons, you're in overworld sections that consist of dialogue and a few choices. I don't think any of those choices impact the overall story, but they can definitely change what kind of silly thing happens in future cutscenes. The writing is consistently funny and although the story is hardly the next great gaming narrative, it's easily good enough to keep you playing. I enjoyed the character interactions and got quite a few laughs out of the classroom sections in particular.
This Way Madness Lies is without a doubt my favorite of Zeboyd's games so far. It's exactly as long as it needs to be, has one of the year's best soundtracks, and is on-point with its comedy. A somewhat repetitive battle system holds it back from being the perfect budget RPG, but that's really the only thing I can criticize about it. I'd consider it a must-play if the concept sounds at all interesting to you.
Time to beat: 5 hours on easy.