Genre: Point-and-Click 3D Adventure
Release date: December 1, 2016
Reviewed on: Windows 10
It has been awhile since a game took me by surprise. I began playing Maize with no expectations...it was in the review queue and I knew it had to do with corn and it's billed as a humorous adventure. Once I entered the game world, time shifted and I suddenly realized I’d been playing for 3 hours without a coffee break. My desire to continue in the cornfields was offset by the fact that it was 2:00 am and my dogs have their internal alarm clocks permanently set to 6:00 am.
Maize is a fully 3D first person adventure that begins in a corn maze. Having been in the real thing a few times, this was familiar territory and my initial reaction was that the level of detail in the rendering of the cornfield and the abandoned farm is amazing. Each blade on each cornstalk is perfectly drawn. There is the ubiquitous junk car parked behind the house. There is a metal water dispenser in the chicken coop and an abandoned garden gnome in the attic. Add a silo, a barn, an outhouse, a rusted tractor and a mysterious gate, and you have a game world that is both interesting and pleasing to the eye. This is complemented by an original soundtrack that justified my investment in high quality headphones.
Game mechanics are simple. You use the WASD keys to move and the mouse to scan. Inventory is accessed and used by clicking. Cycling through your inventory is done from the main game screen by using the mouse wheel. As a result, Maize is an intuitive game that requires no instruction.
Your first task is to find the farm house. Since it is locked tight, the next order of business is to gain access. Once you are inside, the game takes off with a series of "find-and-use" puzzles. Each location is filled with detailed objects, and those that can be taken and used are highlighted. Items in inventory have an "on-demand" description that provides a hint on how each might be used. While some may argue that this spoon-feeds a path for the gamer, I like the fact that I did not spend my time pixel-hunting and did not have to resort to the trial-and-error approach to inventory management. I was able to appreciate the detail of each scene rather than clicking on everything, "just in case."
Gameplay in Maize is further streamlined by stacks of crates that block you from areas that are not relevant to your current activities. When a new area becomes available for exploration and the boxes disappear, the game alerts you that a "new path has opened." This is another design decision that I appreciate as it eliminates unnecessary backtracking.
Throughout your journey, items appear that are collected as part of your "Folio" but not used as inventory. These provide backstory tidbits and are just fun to read. There are 75 items that can be gathered over the course of the game and your count provides a clue to how much you are paying attention.
Once the farm has been fully explored and the mysterious gate opened, you find yourself in an underground research facility dedicated to the development of sentient corn. This area is devoid of humans but you learn much from the blue and pink Post-It Notes that provide historical dialog between Ted (the bottom-line businessman) and Bob (the oblivious visionary). While the notes rarely provide hints, it is a delight to read the verbal banter between these two men, who are polar opposites. I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions.
“Sentient Corn” means that the stalks are fully animated and do a good bit of walking and talking. You have chance encounters with these beings on a regular basis. They talk to you but there are no dialog trees for you to respond. They talk with each other and, although they are not the brightest kernels on the cob, they are wonderfully entertaining. At the top of the corn hierarchy is a flamboyant queen who sees the hero in you and enlists your help in saving their species.
Perhaps the most enchanting character you will encounter in Maize is Vladdy, a robotic teddy bear with a Russian accent and a serious attitude. You bring him to life in the underground research facility and he provides both assistance and comic relief. Like any mechanical toy he lumbers along slowly, so be prepared to wait for him to catch up if you take off running down a hallway. Like the sentient corn, he carries on one-sided conversations with himself and with you.
Overall, Maize has all the elements of a great adventure game: Superb graphics, wonderful sounds, an intriguing cast of characters, a heroic quest, a story that twists at the end, and subtle humor. In a word, I found it to be simply delightful. It's clever but not too corny (no pun intended) and has enough diversity that it held my interest. There are two timed challenges with fatal results for the slow gamer -– one requires navigating a short maze and the other involves emulating dance steps. Although these took me a couple of times to master, getting killed was just part of the fun and the game is gently forgiving.
The cut scenes for the end game get a bit long and I admit that the voice-over used for the queen of corn began to wear a bit thin. But the game ends with a bang that you won’t want to miss. So, I’d recommend just kicking back and enjoying the full game experience.
With this title, Finish Line Games has proved they have what it takes to produce an excellent adventure. I look forward to seeing what this team of indie developers will come up with next!
+ Intricately-detailed 3D environment with immersive soundtrack
+ Intuitive game mechanics – no learning curve is required
+ Fun departure from tradition with a creative story, clever humor, and a cast of characters that will make you smile