When Maize first booted up, it struck a resemblance to a classic puzzle title called MYST. Anybody remember that one? At the time, MYST was groundbreaking, not only in terms of graphics but in its difficulty and way of storytelling. It seems as though developers Finish Line Games have had some inspiration from MYST and titles that followed, but how does Maize fit into all of this?
Maize is a first-person puzzle adventure where you play as an unknown character that has just woken up in a cornfield where you see a group of corns running off giggling. Did I mention they walk and talk? It’s at this moment, you know you’re going to be in for an absurd ride. Your character does not speak so the insane characters you meet, speak for you. The corns want you to delve deeper into their world, but for what reason?
When you begin the game, you go in search of these corns and not surprisingly, the first ‘puzzle’ you’ll come across is a corn maze. You can pick up certain objects with the A button and you can switch between items in your inventory using the shoulder buttons. At first, you’ll notice doors, unusual contraptions and blocked off areas amongst others, that you won’t be able to get through until you have the required tool at your disposal. There’s a door at the beginning of the game that has three switches in order for it to open – a hand-shaped switch, a round-shaped switch and a square-shaped switch. It’s at this point you immediately realise that you’re going to do a lot of back-tracking and get a sense of the unusual interactions you’ll come across later in the game.
At first, the puzzles are simple and most logical. Find a key, open the farm house door using said key – which is one of the more logical solutions. Then a little further on, you’ll come across a handle to a shovel. First thought that sprung to mind was to find the spade to the shovel but then I came across a suspicious wardrobe upstairs in the middle of the farm house. After an initial thought of “Really?”, it was then a matter of “Why not just give it a go and see what happens?”. With that, I did. And lo and behold, your character uses the broken shovel to knock down the wardrobe to unveil a doorway leading to the attic. It’s not the most logical solution, but it works and it is something that you could do.
However, it’s not until you eventually encounter the corns and start learning about the place you’ve woken up to that you’ll quickly discover that this is no ordinary farm. These are no ordinary characters. And you may not be an ordinary…well, whatever it is you are. With a little help from a talking wise-cracking Russian teddy bear, who acts as your voice throughout the game, you’ll delve deeper into the mystery the corns told you about; who somehow keep following you and ending up in the same places as you. It’s when you meet this Russian bear that the puzzles just become wacky, but still somehow has a sense of logic to them. For example, there’ll be a point where you need to build a robot using the Russian bear which requires three parts to build: the bear himself, a claw and a backpack. It’s at this point you start thinking to yourself, “Why on Earth would I need this bear to carry a backpack with a claw inside?”. Secondly: “Now where do I get these other parts from?”. But the more you progress, the more that things will start to make sense. Maize isn’t meant to be taken seriously, shown by the comedic characters – every one of them. Although these scenes are few and far between, where you will be spending most of your time exploring by your lonesome, when they do appear, it’s nice to take a break, rest your head and listen to their banter. Did I say “Rest your head”? Yeah, you might want to listen to what they have to say…
Overall, Maize does well what it’s meant to do; provide plenty of puzzles that transgresses the more you play. There are numerous amount of times that you will be stuck, which inevitably leads to a mad case of trying every item in your inventory with every interactive until you find the correct piece, but I’d say this happens with most puzzle games like these – especially if you’ve been scratching your head for a long time.
Maize is available to download digitally from the Xbox Store, priced at £15.99.
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