Review: Maize – A Corny, Not-So-Good Time with a Russian Teddy Bear

maize-screenshot01

[Credits: Finish Line Games]


Pros:
+Fourth-wall breaking jokes that honestly deliver a good few laughs
+Voice acting is superb
+Aesthetically a rather beautiful game thanks to Unreal Engine

Cons:
-Extremely linear gameplay
-Puzzles are barely challenging, if at all
-Intermittent crashes while playing
-Backtracking is impossible due to some orange boxes
-Would have worked well as a VR title


Through all the years of games I’ve played, I’ve been hard pressed to find those that are truly unique, abstract, absurd, and even challenging in any form. More-often-than-not, I’ve been challenged to do so. While there are certainly indie games out there proving to be unique and challenging, there’s still very few that have intrigued me into the point of finding some wacky form of fulfillment. If you’re here for story, you may be in the wrong place, but if you’re hear for a challenge, you’re definitely in the place to be.

Maize is probably one of the corniest games I’ve ever played in my 30+ years as a gamer. To get straight to the point, you assume the control of a mysterious being, one that awakens to see some corn stalks… Walking away. From there, it’s a maze (see what they did here? Corny) of corn stalks that lead players along a linear path through various locations on the farm. You’ll visit a farmhouse, a silo, a barn, a talking Russian-teddy- bear’s hangout, and other locales typical for a farm including a maze of cornstalks, but eventually, you’ll gain access to the corn stalks’ underground base once it opens up.

maize-screenshot05

[Credits: Finish Line Games]

Unlike its opening minutes, the game changes pace pretty quickly. The underground base essentially is where the majority of your game will take place over time. As you go through the games puzzles, you’ll find yourself investigating what exactly how the Hell these corn things are walking, talking, and most of all, how their bowls of popcorn got a little scrambled. Some of this is actually told through something rather interesting as the game gets under way. Most of the plot is told through the games collectible portfolio of items, including environmental clues, handwritten sticky notes that are strewn about, and even some off-the-wall dialogue.

One of the best parts of the game isn’t even its use for helping guide the player around through hidden suggestions within the games portfolio of items found, but the awkward-yet-hysterical notes that are strewn about, working as a conversation through those sticky notes that were mentioned previously. While their dialogue, and the dialogue of the talking corn can be considered hilarious, there are moments where the game becomes a drag.

maize-screenshot02

Some, if not quite a bit, of the dialogue isn’t written the best. While the Russian-teddy-bear can be quite funny from time to time, he quickly begins to wear out his welcome within a matter of hours. I sometimes found myself just ignoring him, trying to pay more attention to what was going on around me versus what he had to say. When it comes to game mechanics, there are very few to appreciate, making it hard to call this game a throwback to classic adventure games like MystGrim Fandango, and Kings Quest.

Instead the game doesn’t require players to use the suggested critical thinking or problem solving that most games would require. While there is plenty of item collecting to use, these usually lead to using them to interact with the games world in order to progress, which unfortunately, is still rather linear. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t even challenge the player to think too hard, sometimes the game outright tells the player what they need.

maize-screenshot07

[Credits: Finish Line Games]

If I had to compare the level of difficulty and intuition needed to play the game, I would have to say there is little to none. It’s very much a don’t color outside the lines type ordeal. There wasn’t much time for me to require a moment where I needed a notepad, a screenshot, or even the smallest amount of note taking to proceed from where I left off. The biggest and most troubling part? Almost everything you interact with, is going to be used. If you can’t click on it, you can’t use it, and it proves little to no use besides visual aesthetics.

The biggest, if any challenge, is just finding which item goes where if you weren’t paying attention to what you are doing. If you feel lost, you probably won’t be going the way that feels familiar since the navigable paths are too linear to not notice where you need to go. Paths that you would normally want to explore are blocked off, preventing you to seeing what could have made players wander away from where they needed to go. Even your pathways where you need to go aren’t well hidden, they are usually right in front of you, begging you to go down them.

maize-screenshot06

[Credits: Finish Line Games]

In areas that I had explored entirely, became quickly blocked off after performing the desired action requested of me, which would soon be barricaded in some way or another. Instead, I was constantly pushed in the direction I needed to go. While the narrative does mention one occasion of such a thing that happens – the orange boxes that blocked my path backwards – which was described to me in a fourth-wall breaking manner. Outside of that one time of them being mentioned? I heard nothing more about them and was sent on my not-so-merry way.

The most disappointing aspect? I was half-expecting for the game to grab me by my ankles, turn me upside down, and shake me about, changing the script entirely. Sadly, even with all the active reasons to do so, the game decided to not do such a thing to me. Instead my corny experience carried on, providing me with a mediocre plot, a mixed bag of corny jokes, and an empty bowl of popcorn that was eaten by a talking Russian-teddy-bear.

maize-screenshot08

[Credits: Finish Line Games]

The saddest part of it, is the fact that Maize itself had a promising premise as a narrative driven puzzle title. The game itself seemed as if it would turn everything around as I stated. It left me with an experience that left me leaning back in my chair, sticking my hand in my bowl of popcorn, and chugging down a jack and coke to lighten the blow. While the ending itself is certainly worth seeing, I felt my four-almost-five hours of gameplay, was almost not worth it. I wanted my experience to end and I wanted to end it quicker by simply closing the app.

To be quite honest, I’d have been less disappointed had the game been a VR title. It would have done a bit more for me to enjoy and quite possibly lured me in a bit more. Even as someone who isn’t a gigantic fan of VR and sees it as a gimmick, there are few games out there that would seemingly have done better as a VR title, and this just happens to be one of them. A lot of this is because the game is aesthetically one of the best looking games out there for what it is, dispite the fact everything looks muddy and motion blurred when moving.

Luckily, the games animations are quite appealing and easy on the eyes. It is one of the most softening things that help take way from this experience. The voice acting is well done, convincingly enough, that the jokes seem quite a live and rather funny. Unfortunately, maneuvering isn’t as easy. There aren’t buttons that will let you turn left, right, or even backwards rather quickly. If you want to jump, this won’t happen. You’ll be restricted from maneuvering over any hurdle that you may find in your path.


Maize – PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One
Developer: Finish Line Games
Publisher: Finish Line Games
Release Date: Available Now
Cost: $19.99


Sadly, the jump button would have helped from time-to-time. I often found myself getting into areas where I was unable to get out of due to the lack of this feature and thus had to reset my progress to my last known checkpoint. Which brings the statement forward. On a technical level, the gameplay itself doesn’t exist. Instead, it’s an interactive comedy for fans to enjoy.

Sadly, I’d have been fine with a visual experience, one that would drag me around, requesting for me to make simple choices, unless I played in VR. Until this happens, I can only say that the games narrative, comedy, and artistic value makes the experience worthwhile. If a VR experience for the game comes to light? It may just be worth the while, but until then? It’s a pass unless you want something mindless to play.


Our review is based upon a retail version we were provided by the games publisher.  For information about our ethics policy please click here.


 Final Score: 5 out of 10


About the Writer:

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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