Maize is a first-person adventure/puzzle game developed by Finish Line Games, released on December 2nd, 2016. The premise around the game is what happens if two scientists misunderstood a memo from the U.S government and created sentient corn.
I have to admit that while I enjoyed playing Maize for the majority of my playthrough, I could not bring myself to fully ‘like’ the game if that makes sense. I wanted to love Maize but couldn’t, despite the times I enjoyed the game.
You start the game near a dock with no explanation where you are, or what you are doing other than seeing what appears to be sentient corn running off into a giant cornfield. With no choice, you venture into the maize to find answers (hah get it? Cause maize and maze…okay I’m sorry, I’ll stop). Eventually, you figure how to gain access to the elevator where you are confronted with an army of sentient corn. Long story short, you are tasked with freeing their queen from her prison while avoiding their brother, who admittedly is rather unhinged.
On your adventure to free the queen, you will encounter various sticky notes between Ted and Bob, the founders of the research facility. Among the numerous statues and paintings that Bob had commissioned for himself using the budget given to them from the military. You will also find Vlad, the Russian Teddy Bear who will accompany you throughout most of your journey, giving his own opinions (read: insults) throughout the journey whether they are wanted or not.
The first thing I noticed right away was the soundtrack. One of the tracks is very reminiscent of the Portal 2 soundtrack, although the name of the track it reminds me remains elusive. I enjoyed the soundtrack immensely, especially the ‘Top Secret’ track written specifically for the game.
Examining items in your inventory reveals helpful clues in how to progress in the adventure. Although at times, it can be hard to discern where you need to go to progress. I got stuck several times trying to figure out what or where I needed to go in order to continue after running out of items. While the game often helps you by erecting orange box barriers, directing you to the correct path, the environment is still vast enough to get lost/confused when you have no clear direction on your next objective.
Speaking of environments, it is possible to get stuck on some of the terrain assets used in the game. During the sub-level (or sewer) exploration, I ended up getting suck on the debris they left in the corner of the pipe. I ended up being stuck in my unforeseen prison, forcing me to exit to the main menu and loading the game again. Thankfully, the auto-save feature did not save me too far from where I was at in the game. On the other hand, the environmental design was well-done and I enjoyed the beauty of it.
I am disappointed at the lack of option to enable subtitles, especially with how much dialogue is spoken in-game by the different characters. I had moments where I was unable to follow the conversation and had to scramble to figure out my next task since there were no subtitles for me to follow. If it were not for the random in-game messages giving me hints, I probably would have wasted so much time wandering around trying to figure if a new path opened up or not.
I had a love-hate relationship with Vlad the Teddy Bear, I loved the idea behind his character but his repetitive insults (“idiot” “stupid American cowboys” etc.) became grating after hearing it several times. In fact, much of the dialogue or the game’s jokes revolve around the words “stupid” and “idiot”, or characters being stupid. It was humorous the first few times, then it just felt rather lazy on the writers’ part. Unless they were trying to not take themselves too seriously? It is hard to tell, other than the fact they were obviously trying hard to be funny.
Oh speaking of Vlad, that reminds me. Vlad glitched through a wall in Fernando’s office and got stuck. Thankfully after moving far away enough fixed it since he teleports to the player if they go too far.
There are a total of 75 different collectibles. They have no real purpose other than to give entertaining descriptions of said items. Again, I repeat they serve no purpose meaning you never use them at all. You pick up a wood pallet for example and looking its description essentially says: you picked it up because you liked the direction of the wood grain and something about splinters. I don’t remember beyond the wood grain bit. I ended up finding 70 out of 75, not due to the fact I wanted to find all 75 items, but because since they were highlighted, I figured it was an important item. You know…because highlighted objects = interactive objects that may be useful down the line. You know what I mean. I did find the description for the three useless mystery novels to be somewhat amusing, with an increasingly disgruntled author.
As I mentioned, most of the story felt lazy due to the whole repetitive use of “stupid” and “idiot”. Although I do have to say, the twist at the ending was rather unexpected. You think I would see it coming but I did not. So kudos for that.
Now onto the main gameplay element: the puzzles. I would describe it as “puzzle-light” where it can be summarized as: combine this object with another object. In my opinion, the puzzles were extremely easy. The most difficult aspect was figuring out where I needed to go or do since the environment was so large. I spent over twenty minutes trying to figure what I had to do, turns out I did not explore the exterior of one of the buildings that had the missing item I needed. Puzzles, not so much time wasted since they were straight-forward. Although using the whole “build a fake person with items” was clever, doing it three times…..felt somewhat lazy to me. I understand it is meant to emphasize on how Bob is an idiot and I suppose cheap since he was skimping on security so he could fund his next luxurious item or horrendously bad idea. Three times though? Just feels so lazy.
If you want to get the game, I honestly would recommend waiting till it goes on sale. $20USD seems a bit much, although I did buy this on sale for $10USD (or $9.99 to be more exact). I did enjoy certain aspects of the game mainly the visual style and the soundtrack.
The puzzles were rather light, relying mainly on combining two different items together. Although I have to admit the whole nuclear reactor bit was stressful since the maze was disorienting. Some of the written descriptions and dialogues were funny, but I feel it tried too hard to be funny. In short, the writing felt lacking. I honestly think having 75 collectible items to mainly give humorous descriptions is a bit much. Vlad feels like he was pushing the typical Russian stereotype too much by insulting the player character and insulting anything American related.
So in short, plenty of mixed feelings towards Maize. It has a solid design in terms of level and environmental design. The puzzles could add more variety, although the writing could use some serious work. Otherwise, it is a solid indie puzzle/adventure game. Would I play it again? Probably not, but I can definitely say it is not the worst game I have played, if I do replay it, it would be for the visuals and the soundtrack.