You'd be Amaized…
I thought the gaming industry had thrown everything it could at me. I thought every conceivable topic and idea had been covered. That the only changes we could enjoy from here on out would be just slight variations of what had come before. But then those glorious lunatics over at Finish Line Games came up with Maize, which is completely accurate when it tells you that the main staple of the game is sentient corn. And no, that's not a typo.
This very pretty and atmospheric adventure puzzle game will have you forgiving its rather ridiculous premise in no time, and it'll very quickly make you want to play along just so you can enjoy more of the snarky, sarcastic and left-field humour. Whilst only a short game, it is worth every second put into it. The only caution I would give is to suspend all disbelief, sit back and simply accept Maize for what it is. A light-hearted jaunt through corn infested fields.
I also promise from the outset not to make any terrible corn-related puns (trust me, I was very tempted).
Maize is available as you read over on Steam.
When I first saw the synopsis of this game and the few pictures/trailers which were available to me, I thought it might be some sort of wacky take on the survival-horror game, with the player's character being relentlessly stalked by disgustingly deformed crops of corn out for human blood. The atmosphere that the game creates with a combination of lighting and music could easily turn this game into such a thing. Thankfully I found that this wasn't the case. I'm a massive scaredy-cat and therefore terrified at the prospect of having to play any horror games. So after a few minutes of trepidation in which I was expecting a terrifying piece of corn to jump out of me, I quickly found my footing and dove head first into this strange new world.
The way in which you interact with the world is pretty straight-forward. You've got your standard set of movement buttons, left-mouse click to pick items up and then combine them with other items or use them to access new areas. You can also crouch, though this is used rarely. You soon find yourself picking up an assortment of seemingly useless items which are more often than not used in ways not originally intended so that you may progress further through the game. You also tend to find a number of interesting items along the way…
Finding these items is usually pretty simple as they're highlighted by a white border, though this did cause me to become complacent and miss a few things and therefore have to backtrack quite a bit. Upon starting the game you find yourself in a massive labyrinth of crops, with only an English Muffin as a company (although it looks more like a scone than a muffin, but I digress). Initially, there are only a couple of pathways open to you, with stacks of mysterious orange boxes blocking your way to other areas. Solving puzzles and exploring your strange surroundings will slowly open up new pathways and gradually reveal some aspects of the game's mystery to you.
This certainly isn't an action-packed game, instead depending on the atmosphere, the small snippets of story you get from notes and the general slapstick humour provided by an eclectic cast of colourful characters. One such character is your very own little helper and best friend ever, Vladdy the robotic Russian teddy bear.
Though our dear new friend does cause some problems of his own…
There are a few moments of actual lethal danger in the game, but Maize is definitely more of an experience story-based game than anything else. The play style and story could certainly start to wear thin, but the game is appropriately short so that you can still enjoy it without getting tired of some of the characters. Speaking of the story.
As I've mentioned already the story is that two scientists have misinterpreted a government order and have ended up creating sentient corn. You come into it after experiencing a strange trippy dream before waking up next to a river, watching three strange corn-like beings running off into the distance. Soon enough you find your way through the fields and come to a solitary farmhouse. So far so good. Then you start coming across strange little occurrences throughout the farmland before eventually coming face to face with the main topic(s) of the game.
I won't say much about the corn themselves as I wouldn't want to spoil the fun for anyone, but they certainly make an impact. As you delve deeper into this confusing facility you start to find out more about the two scientists and gradually discover that they're not on the best of turns. What starts off as an experiment turns into an attempt to save themselves rather than complete their work. The corn as well has their own purpose and goal, with a few twists along the way.
Going through the story I did find myself being entertained by the humour and getting a few chuckles as well. I saw after completing the game that the developers were fans of Monty Python and therefore tried to capture some of that spirit, and you can see that coming through in some of the jokes. But knowing this sort of spoiled it slightly for me, because it completely changed my perspective of the humour. I'm not saying people shouldn't take inspiration from Python, they certainly should, but I just think it's better to keep it to yourselves to avoid having your comedy measured up against something as prolific as those films and show.
Graphics and Sound
As I've mentioned previously in this review, Maize sets a great atmosphere and certainly helps add to the mystery. A lot of this is thanks to the artistic style and well-used lighting effects throughout the game. The graphics aren't ground-breaking, but they have been very well done, though some textures are slightly low quality and I did notice some significant drops in framerates when going from one area to the next. But again, this game is more about the story and enjoying the experience rather than being blown away by beautiful graphics.
The music, however, is fantastic. Each new area has its own soundtrack, with every note laying on the atmosphere and helping to keep you going in this game. It also has its own pretty great song, which I'll be desperately looking for in the near future for my own listening pleasure.
I have to say I really didn't know what to expect from this game when I first came into it, but I ended up enjoying it massively. Once you get into the swing of it and just accept Maize for the odd little story that it is, you'll find yourself being happy for spending the time in it that you did. The characters throughout are all wonderful in their own special little ways (even the ones you don't actually meet), the story is great at keeping you guessing right until the last moment and the whole thing has been very well put together.
I couldn't bring myself to give the game as high a mark as I'd like to as for me it doesn't have much replay value at the moment, and some parts of the humour did become a bit stale as things went on, but overall I'd say this is a very good outing for Finish Line Games and I hope to see more in the future.
Now get going you idiot.
|+ Good graphics||– No replay value|
|+ Great atmosphere||– Humour gets stale|
|+ Immersive music||– Some framerate issues|
|+ Memorable characters|
|+ Quirky humour|