Maize (PlayStation 4) Review

By Albert Lichi 23.09.2017 2

Review for Maize on PlayStation 4

There was once a time in gaming when weirdness and oddity was the rule and not the exception. This was mostly in the 1990s when developers were beginning to experiment with narrative, and the last thing on anyone's minds was to try to emulate whatever Hollywood was doing. There were a lot of really wacky game ideas back in the day, like with those LucasArts cartoony adventure games, the seemingly endless barrage of deranged platformers such as Earthworm Jim or Boogerman, and even 3D action games like MDK and Redneck Rampage. With fighting games managing to get really bizarre with the advent of Clayfighter, it was like there was no end to the trend. Then, one day, it stopped. Suddenly, games got a bit more vanilla and less interesting as people tried to elevate the medium to a higher art form. Maize truly feels like it is harkening back to a time when the style of games weren't afraid to embrace weirdness, but is it weirdness for weirdness' sake? Cubed3 looks deeper to see if there is more to corn than meets the eye.

Maize truly is unlike most first-person narrative games on the market. It is a strange barrage of tones that unexpectedly work that goes from surreal and vaguely spooky, to Monty Python-esque comedy. When the story begins it is somewhat bewildering, because with a concept involving sentient corn, secret labs and government testing, the atmosphere is unusually restrained and subdued. Waking up in the middle of a cornfield and exploring what can be best described as a derelict farm, Maize does very little in the opening moments to explain anything. Information is given out in a mature manner and gives the plot a profound sense of build-up, although the earliest moments may take a bit too long to get the ball rolling. Once the initial slow hump is bypassed, Maize becomes a gripping and highly amusing adventure that does have a clever twist that should have been obvious, but is executed in the most hilarious way that a video game like this could have done.

Screenshot for Maize on PlayStation 4

So, yeah, there are sentient dim-witted corn guys, and they have a Queen, and she has been imprisoned by Bob. Bob is also a sentient dim-witted corn, but with a much crueller disposition and a yearning for world domination. Bob will, uh... stalk the protagonist through much of the adventure and will often make ineffectual yet hilarious attempts to make life harder. There is also Vladdy, the trash-talking Russian teddy bear with the robotic arm who is just tired of being the protagonist's tag-along and has a heart of gold. Vladdy is obviously the best character, even if his constant whining about everyone's ineptitude and climbing into vents can get slightly tedious. He could have been a bit more helpful during the gameplay instead of just being a glorified key, though. He could have served as the means to give hints instead of the utterly clumsy way Maize beats people over the head with solving some puzzles.

There is one diabolical puzzle close to the end of the game that has a very important key item that nobody will ever see due to how small it is and how it blends in, and if anyone finds it on their own, it is mostly due to luck. A spoiler alert for anyone who might be interested in this game and does not want to smash their head through a brick wall: the tape for copying the finger print is on the whiteboard in the lab with centrifuge.

Screenshot for Maize on PlayStation 4

The core gameplay of Maize is a 3D first-person adventure with an emphasis on point-and-click style puzzles that would not be out of place in a 90s LucasArts adventure game. Find-a-thing-and-put-the-thing-in-the-thing style of puzzles. These range from very obvious to head banging against the wall preposterous, as they often do, because it wouldn't be funny if the protagonist couldn't lug around a water cooler in his back pocket.

Maize is a really easy game mostly because the solutions are basically shown in 3D outlines. The only challenge that exists is navigating the appropriately maze-like level design of the facility and actually finding the necessary items to solve each situation. This is where Maize begins to falter and its design crumbles. Without any explanation, there will be pathways in the world that will become arbitrarily blocked by what can be best described as a wall of orange shoeboxes. These boxes will pop up in pathways that were completely open and free, and it becomes infuriating and insulting. It is very obvious that these barricades were likely implemented due to play-testers getting lost and not knowing where to go since these roadblocks are seemingly designed to funnel people to the intended destination instead of letting players figure it out on their own.

Screenshot for Maize on PlayStation 4

Graphically, Maize will not be winning any awards at all. The best aspects of the visuals are by far the character designs themselves and their facial expressions. The technical specs are fairly middling here, with the overall presentation looking like a last generation game. Textures fail to impress and 3D geometry is kept pretty low. The strongest visuals are seen early on with the lighting effects when exploring the farm for the first time. At best, Maize will slightly resemble a 90s-era CGI cutscene at times, while at worst it will look like an unfinished PC game running on low settings.

The audio is very interesting and is probably the best quality it has. The voice acting is good - in fact, it is way better than it has any reason to be. A lot of the cast is performed by one guy, too, and he manages to pull off a variety of voices that do not sound anything alike. The music is also something else, with a lot of eerie ambient tracks that fit the surreal and absurd nature of the atmosphere - and out of nowhere, there is a really awesome original 80s-inspired song called "Top Secret," which has two versions: a new wave and a rocking 80s metal interpretation. Maize truly was somebody's passion project, and if there was one aspect that was not compromised on, it was its unique and textured audio. One might even say that the developer has an ear for sound.

Screenshot for Maize on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Maize is a pretty rare kind of game. It is very unlikely it will reach cult status the way Deadly Premonition has, but this really is every bit as good and original. There is a good variety of puzzles and brain teasers to negotiate in this adventure - one of which is even a hilarious half-baked Dance Dance Revolution minigame that is under the pressure of a drone airstrike. It is a pretty short adventure that can be completed in about three to four hours. This might have been a bit longer had the designers not spelled out most of the solutions in the most obvious way and did not have those orange box barricades shunting users in the intended direction. The lack of visual polish is to be expected in an indie game, but there is no excuse for low grade muddy textures.

Developer

Finish Line Games

Publisher

Finish Line Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

one thing that bugged me about the title of this game is how the stylized font makes it look like "MARE" instead of "MAIZE".

Now I've seen it, I can never un-see it! Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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