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Review: Maize is as quirky an adventure you're likely to find, but one worth taking
Outrageous, nonsensical, and at times completely backwards. But somehow Maize just works.
Developer: Finish Line Games
After previewing Maize about a month ago, I was pretty sure that I had as good an idea as to how the game would turn out. Maize is an inventory-puzzle-based first-person Adventure game set in 1983 where a pair of idiotic scientists blows hundreds of millions of government dollars on a botched experiment resulting in the creation of sentient corn. The game takes you through scenic corn fields and an underground facility on a whacky journey of self-discovery and an insanely liberal use of the word “stupid.”
There’s a certain charm that Maize exudes to the player through its art style and swift caricatured animations. It’s a good thing that many of these animations play at a smooth 60 FPS, so not only do they masterfully convey the intended expression, but they look incredibly slick. Maize does, unfortunately, suffer from some technical glitches that can cause a mild amount of frustration, many of which were present in the game as of a month ago.
With all that said, here’s a breakdown of what you need to know about Maize.
Maize is legitimately funny, but how long its humor resonates with the player will vary by person.
There is not a single aspect of Maize that it ever takes seriously. When the game isn’t creating its own inside jokes, it’s making fun of its own absurdity. The inventory items you collect appear to be junk at first glance (and in most cases are), but they all work to solve the puzzles in some MacGyver-esque form that works just because. Even your folio items (Maize’s version of collectibles) are connected by one running joke or another, the most notable being the rocks with varying fancy adjectives that your character humanizes by naming.
These things work well the first time or two that you see them (at least until you connect the dots that it’s an inside joke), but there are certain aspects of Maize’s writing that can grind your gears. For me, that was Vladdy, the angry talking Russian teddy bear that can fix anything just by touching (or kicking) it who also happens to follow you everywhere.
Vladdy’s main angle is that he is a constant source of insults which pretty much boil down to nothing more than “you’re stupid, idiot.” Again, this works perfectly fine for a little bit at the beginning, but when each one of his lines contains at least one use of the word “stupid” or “idiot,” it can get a bit boring. This is coupled with the fact that as you go along, you’ll find a back-and-forth dialog via sticky note scattered all around the game, and the jokes in there are almost identical to Vladdy’s.
Like most First-Person Adventure games, Maize’s game loop is pretty straightforward.
Maize’s primary game loop revolves around collecting items and then placing said items in predefined contextual slots, which oftentimes are working towards solving some overarching puzzle. These items, when you first pick them up will make little to no sense at all, which is the point. But if you’re able to get into the flow of what Maize is preaching, it ends up making sense in an oddball sort of way.
None of the puzzles you encounter are particularly challenging. They mostly boil down to making sure you’ve picked up every highlighted item in each room on a particular level, and then matching the item to an outlined shape in the environment. You will encounter one or two puzzles more than once, but they don’t feel like they overstay their welcome.
There are some technical issues with Maize, but nothing game-breaking.
When things go right for Maize, the game achieves a flat 60FPS with no issues. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The game struggles with both loading screens and level transitions that framerate stutters are very common in these instances. The stutter can last up to a minute or so, but once it loads everything, it’s smooth sailing.
Maize also suffers from some slow texture loading and minor clipping, but neither of these things dominates the experience. Fortunately, all of these technical problems are perfectly fixable, just don’t expect them to be there at launch.
The big question you see when it comes to the launch of a First-Person Adventure game is always, “is it worth the money?” That’s such a tough question to answer since the value of the genre varies so much from gamer to gamer, but I will say that for me, it is. That said, I am a fan of the genre, and (for the most part) I relate to the humor, provided I’m not undergoing a Vladdy overload.
I understand however that absurdist humor can be an acquired taste for some, so if that’s not your cup of tea, then Maize probably won’t do a whole lot for you. However, as a first person adventure game, Maize is on par with some of the better titles in the genre, and while it doesn’t push any boundaries, it is an adventure worth taking.
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