Maize (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 01.12.2016

Review for Maize on PC

Awoken in a corn field without any introduction and very soon presented to a cast of sentient corn—plus, as the Steam description displays, as many corn-based puns as developer Finish Line Games can think of. This is the certainly unique plot behind Maize, an indie-developed first-person-based adventure-puzzle title. There hasn't been a great deal of hype around it, but with striking visuals, it has the potential to be one of those hidden gems. Cubed3 got the chance to experience the adventure, out today on Steam, to see how it shapes up.

Gaming is one of the most subjective mediums in entertainment. Personal choice between the various mechanics that make up the ingredients can wildly differ. This is what makes Maize equally enchanting and frustrating depending on personal opinion.

Maize introduces the age-old dilemma concerning story versus gameplay, and which of these mechanics trump one another. On the one hand, there is a very unique setting and cast of characters here, all of whom ooze the kind of charm and humour that is recognisable from some of the best film animation studios. Add in rather smart ways of introducing backstory, as well as a fun, if not totally surprising plot, and it all appears amazing.

However, this is weighed up against an extremely formulaic sense of actual gameplay. Mainly this comes in the form of the 'walking simulator' syndrome of following a set of branched off (or boxed off, in this case) corridors and solving some really rudimentary puzzles, which usually involve, in 90% of cases, simply placing an item down within the shaped, highlighted section marked. Granted, some people don't like to be frustrated with puzzle fatigue; however, with a not insignificant price tag of £14.99 and a story that can be completed in around four hours, this suddenly doesn't seem as rosy as before.

Screenshot for Maize on PC

Looking more in depth into the story side of things, it is clear a lot of time was dedicated to making something really imaginative. The best stories are ones both kids and adults can enjoy, and it feels like that is the case with Maize. What is great is that it does not put emphasis on making some obscure mystery that takes itself overly seriously, which, considering the initial subject matter about an abandoned research base on a farm, it easily could have done.

No, what we have is silly and expressively-voiced corn characters who are delightfully designed to provide a lot of comic relief. They pop up every few segments to express their naive and dumb view of the situation, but through their voices and facial expressions they come to have a life of their own and make memorable characters despite the lack of names or actual use.

Not to spoil any of the plot, but the real standout character is discovered around a quarter of the way through. He is a small stuffed bear who takes on the voice and mannerisms of a gruff Russian. The stark contrast in his cute and cuddly appearance against his dialogue and contempt of the voiceless protagonist just works down to a T.

Screenshot for Maize on PC

On the other hand, the main villain of the piece is not exactly original in his goals or methods, but he again is given such a wacky personality through his expanded plant structure and scheming vocal performance that it stands out as a real polished and professional cast of characters.

Additionally, there is a great mechanism for exploring the lore of the world in a very organic way through the various post-it notes, drip fed throughout the plot from the humans who built the facility. It is always so nice when games diverge from long narrative explanations and instead treat the audience with a sense of respect and trust, which Maize does. It pays off, as well, meaning twists and story development is more surprising and impactful.

The above is where Maize shines; however, going back to the gameplay aspect, this is where so much of the frustration of these kinds of experiences lays. With gaming, unlike any other medium, just having a good story isn't enough unless it is priced and catered as an explicitly storytelling title.

Screenshot for Maize on PC

Fair or not, when puzzles are promised there is an audience that is going to expect this to involve challenge and player input. In both these cases there is very little. Puzzles do not deviate from the 'find an item, place it in correct area' format, and with the world not being particularly large and generally linear, this means it is no challenge at all.

Well, no difference until the very end, which, not to spoil anything, is a great end segment and finally presents a different kind of challenge with Guitar Hero style musical notes. It isn't hard or indeed original, but is something. It is a shame it took until the dying moments for another kind of gameplay to be introduced.

The world looks very good generally, with some textures up close looking a bit dated, but landscapes and a lot of the effects, such as the sun rays and the animations, much better. However, it is immensely frustrating when every wrong turn taken is so obviously blocked off by bright orange boxes. There was a lot of imagination taken in most other aspects of the story, so it is a shame that there was a rather cobbled together explanation for this, and why there could not have been a subtler mechanic used.

Screenshot for Maize on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Maize is an example of the age-old debate in gaming around gameplay versus story. In this case, it is so hard to discount the gameplay aspect. The great implementation of the plot and the unique story, on top of the brilliant portrayal of the cast and the general charming vibe, is sure to please young and old. What lets it down is that all this is balanced against a rather high cost considering the very modest length of the adventure, which doesn't offer any real replayability. Additionally, the lack of challenge means things feel extremely linear and the length is even further eroded. Maize is a definite pick up… when it is on sale, that is.

Developer

Finish Line

Publisher

Finish Line Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

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   

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