Pierre The Maze Detective, the bestselling maze picture book, beautifully hand drawn by local illustrator Hiro Kamigaki, is about to move into a whole new world.
The book, which has sold almost a million copies and been translated into 30 languages since it was first published in 2015, has been transformed into a video game, Labyrinth City: Pierre The Maze Detective, and is soon to be available on a variety of platforms, including Nintendo Switch.
For the uninitiated, Pierre The Maze Detective is a series of three large format picture books in which our hero, the young Pierre, and his friend Carmen engage in a battle of wits with the super-villain Mr X. Visually, it’s like Where’s Waldo? got transported to the world of Jean “Moebius” Giraud; the books are insanely detailed, brightly-colored, brimming with energy and full of humor. The new video game Labyrinth City: Pierre The Maze Detective is based on the first of the three books, Pierre The Maze Detective: The Search for the Stolen Maze Stone.
I sat down with Hiro Kamigaki at the offices of his boutique design studio 1C4 Design on the eve of Pierre’s video game debut. Asked about how the game project came about, he is characteristically humble. When he was in the midst of the creative marathon that produced Pierre’s first adventure, Kamigaki says that he would often console himself with the idea that if at least one in a thousand people really dug it, the book could perhaps become a long-tail success. It just so happened that one of those one in a thousand worked for Darjeeling, an award-winning production company based in Paris, France. Darjeeling reached out to IC4 Design and the process of turning the book into an immersive game experience with indie game publisher Pixmain began.
To date, the Pierre books have spawned spin-offs such as a coloring book, sticker book and jigsaw puzzles, but playing on a demo version of the game, it is clear that this takes the books into a whole new space. The detail of the books means that, even once you’ve solved the maze, there is so much to discover that you can go back to them again and again. The game takes this to another level as it’s difficult to take in everything that’s going on as you move through the mazes all in one go. Then there are all the little Easter eggs to unearth and jokes to trigger.
Kamigaki, who worked in the game industry when he was younger, says that it certainly crossed his mind that the books might work well as a game, but he has been impressed at the way the project has expanded Pierre’s world and made it more immersive. There are some things that can be done in game that are difficult in a book; such as actually stepping through a little door and seeing what is “beyond the page”. That the script developed for the games gives some of the literally thousands of painstakingly-drawn minor characters their own names and lines also adds depth to the 2D world.
Kamigaki confesses that the level of detail for which he has become renowned comes at a cost; “It’s like I have to give up something of myself every time I go through the process”, he says. However, seeing his illustrations on a high resolution game screen, he is so relieved that he put the extra work into every tiny detail. It is this level of commitment that makes the game so visually appealing and definitely makes it stand out in the highly competitive space.
That people respond to his work always seems to take Kamigaki by surprise, and he says that when he heard that Nintendo had chosen Labyrinth City: Pierre The Maze Detective for its Switch platform from a bunch of indie games, he thought it must be a joke. But, sure enough, the game will be coming to the popular platform sometime this summer.
“It feels like I’ve gotten lost in a picture book”
The game, although yet to be officially released, has already won several awards and the response to the trailer published on Nintendo’s YouTube channel has been encouraging. Browsing the comments, many are excited at the prospect of a Where’s Waldo? style game and the quality of the illustrations of course gets lots of mentions. It’s also interesting to read gamers talking about the sense of nostalgia and the sparking of happy childhood memories that the style of the game evokes.
The game obviously has the potential to bring Pierre the Maze Detective to the attention of a whole new audience. It’s already having an impact on sales of the books, and, should the game prove to be a hit, it’s not unrealistic, perhaps, to see a movie in Pierre’s future.
Kamigaki shared with me how moving it was to first hear Pierre “speak” French in a demo version of the game. To a kid growing up in the suburbs of Kure, France viewed through the lens of film and art, always seemed like an exotic and unattainable land. And here was a character he had created speaking the language of that land. Now, the world is knocking on the door of that boy from Kure and it seems clear that Pierre and Hiro Kamigaki still have many adventures ahead of them.
Labyrinth City: Pierre the Maze Detective will be available for PC on Steam from Jun 22, 2021, followed by the Nintendo Switch version. Mac OS, Android and iOS versions are also to be released. The game has been rated E for Everyone.
Official site: Labyrinth City: Pierre The Maze Detective
June 18, 2021