I could start this review with a few “corny” jokes, or discuss whether this game is “A-maize-ing, or even comment on how it “Barley” meets the standard of current-gen graphics, but I think I’ll leave all the rubbish jokes well alone!
Maize is a first person adventure/puzzle game developed by Finish Line Games, who are previously responsible for Cel Damage HD on console. Maize is the somewhat surreal and absurd tale of a government facility that has created sentient corn. Walking, talking storks of corn. The purpose of the game is to discover what has happened and to put a stop to it. You are aided in your journey by Vladdy, a russian bear who also walks and talks. As I said, this is absurd and surreal.
Maize starts with you, the protagonist, dropped in the middle of a cornfield, and you soon come across a mysterious door that needs three items to be opened. Exploring the local area, including a dark farmhouse, will uncover various items that can be used or combined (pun not intended) in order to get that door unlocked. Each item also has a description that does a great job pointing you in the right direction if you do get a bit stuck. Because of this you rarely feel stuck on what you need to do to progress. It certainly doesn’t suffer from the absurdness of some of the puzzle solving needed in the adventure games of old. Although this helps you focus on the story and the environment, it does make the game feel incredibly easy, and at times it feels that you are spending too much time just walking from location to location.
It’s not long until you meet the corn, who for some unknown reason have comedy British accents, and then Vladdy, the russian bear, who has a comedy generic Eastern European accent. Vladdy has a grumpy outlook on life, and spends most of the game following you around so you can send him through vents and tunnels to unlock areas or fetch objects. During all of this he insults you constantly, calling you an idiot or stupid at every turn. Although the creators of Maize have tried to inject humour in the game, for me it misses the mark slightly, almost trying too hard to mimic a Monty Python style of comedy for the British Corn, and Vladdy’s insults, although amusing at first, soon become repetitive and annoying, especially when he is berating you for going the wrong way, when in fact you are going the right way!
Although Maize starts you off in a cornfield you soon head underground into a government facility where you start to come across some pink and blue coloured post-it notes, which for me are the highlight of the game. The two “scientists” behind the project communicate via these post-it notes, so these document their arguments. One of these is a Trump-like figure who builds lavish statues of himself, and is hell-bent on creating a tourist attraction of the top-secret facility, whilst the other appears to be the more serious brains behind the project. This results in some great back and forth insults via handwritten messages. The game world also has various folio collectibles, with an achievement for collecting all 75. All the items are highlighted for you within the environment, so it’s hard to miss them.
One thing that doesn’t quite work for me is how Maize handles the game world and where you can and can’t go. At certain places there are piles of red boxes blocking your way. When you solve a particular puzzle you get an on-screen message stating “A new path has opened for you”, and the boxes have just disappeared. This has happened the other way around as well, with boxes appearing to prevent me from returning to a certain area. I am not sure why the developers just didn’t use doors instead of a pile of boxes. It did a great job in taking me out of the world when everything else made me feel part of it.
Once you get to the end of the game you will realise that using the words “absurd” and “surreal” to describe Maize doesn’t really do it justice! The final boss battle introduces an unexpected game mechanic that will astonish you, even though it doesn’t really fit. The ending cutscenes will also leave you wondering at the mental health of the team at Finish Line Games. A day after witnessing it and I am still quite not sure what I saw, and not in a bad way!
Graphically this doesn’t hit the standards expected of the current generation consoles. It feels very washed out and grainy (again, no pun intended). Maize is also very short, my first playthrough taking around four hours, and there is an achievement for completing it in two, which is perfectly achievable. There is limited replayability as well, so the current price tag of £16 for this feels quite high. Would I recommend Maize? Yes, as a perfect palate cleanser if you’ve just finished a game like Assassins Creed Origins. Its absurd and surreal but also lots of fun. Might be worth waiting until the obligatory sale where it drops under a tenner though!
Thanks to Xbox and Finish Line Games for supporting TiX