Game Reviews

‘Maize’ Review: Exploring Stalks

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Quick Take: The $19.99 price point might be a little high for the length of Maize, but there hasn’t been a game that made me laugh more than I did during my 4 or 5 hours exploring cornfields and bunkers since Portal 2.

The opening few minutes of Maize really weren’t indicative of the experience to come. Maize throws players into a giant cornfield. The sun is setting, and the twilight zone-esque music playing in the background made me feel like I was walking through a horror movie. Turning a corner, a farm house comes into view. The music picks up a little, and as I walk into the farm house, items appear and puzzles in the world appear. Puzzles are the backbone of Maize, and there are plenty of them. Maize is a first person adventure/walking simulator, and as such there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore looking for clues and items to help solve puzzles.

Exploring the farmhouse and surrounding areas is just the beginning though. A few items found in the opening areas help players enter into a bunker tucked into the beginning of the cornfield. This is where the game truly begins, and Maize begins to display exactly what type of adventure players will be taking. After attempting to enter the bunker, players are surrounding by a large group of sentient corn (a sentence I never thought I’d write.) During the few hours that Maize takes to complete, players find out who created the corn, why they are still there, and what their purpose is. The whole story is absolutely bizarre, and I loved every minute of it.

The real meat of the game takes place inside the bunker. As players explore, they discover memos stuck onto walls on post it notes between two scientists. The interactions between these two, even though they are never seen, is hysterical. One is more of a classic scientists, and the other seems to do whatever he wants. It’s a testament to the humor and storytelling when someone can find so much humor between two unseen characters.

The puzzles are probably the most disappointing part of Maize. As players explore the various locations that Maize is set in, items litter the ground that are used to complete the puzzles the game is built around. The biggest problem is that as you find these items, attempting to use them during a puzzle is as simple as interacting with the location. If one item doesn’t work, players can just cycle through all the items until they find one that works. If none of them do, something was missed, and backtracking is necessary. It’s honestly a little too simple, and Maize holds your hand a little too much to be any sort of challenge.

Shortly after players enter the bunker, some of the items found inside help assemble a Russian teddy bear named Vladdy. Vladdy is another highlight of Maize. His mediocre Russian accent and insistent insults on the main character’s intelligence help give Maize a campy feel. In any other instance, I probably wouldn’t think that this description would help a game I was reviewing. In Maize however, it absolutely works, and shows that Maize is never trying to take itself too seriously.

Graphically, Maize isn’t too impressive. The world isn’t very detailed, and some textures suffered from pop in. The lighting effects, on the other hand, are beautiful. Rays of light beam through cornstalks, and entering and exiting buildings show off the brightness effects when going from a dark room to outside. Maize isn’t a bad looking game by any means, but by normal Playstation 4 standards, it is definitely subpar.

Maize isn’t for everyone, but anyone willing to set aside any sort of realism, and just enjoy the absolutely absurd story at face value there’s a ton of fun to be had here. The $19.99 price point might be a little high for the length of Maize, but there hasn’t been a game that made me laugh more than I did during my 4 or 5 hours exploring cornfields and bunkers since Portal 2. The climax at the end of my journey is one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon, and was easily worth the time investment, even if the rest of Maize is a bit shallow. 

Maize is available now for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. This review is based on a Playstation 4 copy provided by the publisher.

SCORE: 4.0 out of 5

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