Review: Maize


Shucked up

I've always wondered why there's such a big controversy around the popcorn button on microwaves. I mean, it's always there and seems super convenient, but every popcorn bag I've ever made has explicit instructions not to use the popcorn button. Microwave companies must know this, right? Are they attempting to improve the popcorn button? Or do they just continue to include it for the lazy among us who don't give a shit?

Anyway, Maize is a first-person adventure game about sentient corn in an underground lab. Normally I'd say something like "what more do you need to know?!" but trust me, you need to know more before going in.

Maize (PC)
Developer: Finish Line Games
Publisher: Finish Line Games
Released: December 1, 2016

The story is the only driving force in Maize, though that isn't to say it's all that great. As the player first assumes control, mysterious stalks of corn are walking away just ahead. From there, it's a maze (heh, get it) of corn that leads the player on a linear path to various locations on a farm: the farmhouse, silo, barn, and so on. Eventually, access to the corn stalks' underground base opens up.

It's here that the majority of the game takes place. The player will slowly uncover a tumultuous relationship between two founders and unravel the mystery of how the hell these corn things are walking and talking. Most of the plot is divulged by collectible folio items, environmental clues, and handwritten sticky notes strewn all throughout the facility. 

The story isn't all that interesting, but its saving grace is the humor. A lot of the writing between the two founders via sticky notes is legitimately funny and does a great job of detailing their relationship. Not all the writing is stellar, as the Russian-teddy-bear companion that follows the player for most of the journey uses three jokes about infinity times and quickly becomes tiresome.

There is a game here too, sort of. I hesitate to call it a call-back to classic adventure titles, because that would imply that there's some problem solving and critical thinking required. There is plenty of item collecting, which then leads to using those items to interact with the world, but it's all so damn straightforward. Hell, there are even giant outlines of items that need to be placed down in the world, eliminating any requirement of thought on behalf of the player. 

There are rarely instances that require the player to think about what item to use in which scenario. It's very much a "two keys, two doors" situation. There's never really a moment where the player must think critically about how to use the various items in their inventory. One of the biggest issues is everything that can be interacted with is important. If it can't be clicked on, it serves no purpose. So even if a solution isn't completely obvious (they almost always are), it's easy enough to just scroll through all the items and interact with the few interactable things to figure it out.

Even the navigable path is extremely linear. Paths are literally blocked off if the developer doesn't want you to go there. And it's not disguised, either. Here, take a look at this screenshot I took:

I had already explored this entire area, but after performing a specific action, these boxes magically appeared behind me to funnel me towards the direction I needed to go. There's a decent amount of fourth-wall breaking, and the narrative does mention the orange boxes directly, but there's nothing further than that.

I kept waiting for the game to turn itself on its head and flip the script. It had all the ingredients to pull a Spec-Ops-esque maneuver and play with the player: story-driven, linearity, and fourth-wall-shattering moments. So I waited, and I waited, but nothing came. Maize kept going with its mediocre plot and mixed bag of jokes until...it was over. I think the boxes and one object at the end kind of maybe sort of hint at a reason for the linearity, but if so, it's poorly delivered and uninteresting. The actual ending is something rather special, but after three hours of following a straight line, I just wanted it to be over.

On a technical level, this feels like it was glued together in the backend. All of the menu text is just a plain-ass font and the Steam VR popup window boots up when you first launch (this may not happen if you don't own a HTC Vive). I don't see any mention of VR support anywhere, though it would work pretty well given the simplistic nature of the game mechanics. It's likely that it was or is planned, but not yet fully implemented and it's just a leftover of a half-finished idea.

Everything also has that "this was definitely made with the Unreal engine" look. You know the one -- everything is kind of muddy, motion blur is ramped up to a bazillion, and the edges of items are all jaggy when you actually look at them. The animations are quite nice, and luckily so is the voice acting, which helps with a lot of the jokes. There's no jump button, which is fine except that it's very easy to get stuck by "stepping" into areas that trap the player. I've had to restart to previous checkpoints (which are thankfully generous) a few times while playing after getting stuck. I've also crashed to desktop twice.

There's not much going on in Maize. As a video game it fails on both the technical and interactive fronts. The gameplay is so simplistic that it may as well not even exist. Breaking the fourth-wall is cute, but never really amounts to anything other than a cheap laugh. The story is a decent experience thanks to its humor, but everything surrounding it drags it down.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Maize reviewed by Patrick Hancock



An exercise in apathy, neither solid nor liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.
How we score:  The Destructoid reviews guide


Patrick Hancock
Patrick HancockContributor   gamer profile

During the day, he teaches high school kids about history. At night he kicks their butts in competitive games like Rocket League, Dota 2, Overwatch, and Counter-Strike. Disclosure: I've persona... more + disclosures



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    Filed under... #Adventure #Indie #PC #Reviews #Steam



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