Developed by Finish Line Games Published By Finish Line Games Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available for Xbox One and PC)
Did you ever wake up one morning and decide to play a game about sentient corn and a robotic Russian teddy bear named Vladdy solving puzzles together? I sure didn’t think I would, but the absurd humor of Maize is something that independent game companies have been playing with the last few years. We’ve seen it in such games like The Stanley Parable, Goat Simulator, and even some big hits like Portal. This style of humor driven story arcs along with entertaining game play seems to work if done right. That can be where it gets tricky. Like in all forms of comedy, a joke only lands if it works. It has to have a good setup; it has to match its environment. The entire joke can’t just be that something is so ridiculous therefore it’s hilarious. That was my fear when I first started playing Maize, so I was happy to find that it wasn’t the case with the game. This game truly is bizarre and hilarious.
So now you are probably wondering what this game’s story is about. Well, that’s a good question, something I’m not even entirely sure of. You play as someone trying to figure out what the heck is going on. On your team to help answer that question is a Russian robotic teddy bear named Vlad, who is not happy about helping you. He constantly hurls insults at how stupid you are, and his quick wit and one-liners make it hard to disagree with him. The other force helping you is, of course, the sentient corn! You knew that would come into play. The corn wants to help you and are happy to do so, but, they aren’t the brightest formerly inanimate objects on the farm.
Maize’s gameplay runs smoothly but, unlike some puzzle games, isn’t impossible. Honestly, I’m not a person who even likes puzzle games, but the humor of the story really helps drive it. When a player is stuck on a puzzle, once again, the corn comes into play. They offer helpful hints on how to continue onward. Items are also highlighted and come with hints, making puzzles pretty simple considering how many objects there are in the game. Even with these tools, some of the puzzles were decently challenging towards the end.
The sound in the game is charming to say the least. Nice background music plays during the story. The characters don’t talk, instead the narration is all done through text crawl. Though it is all through text, the text is stylized. As someone from the Windows 95 generation, the text scrawl didn’t bother me and I grew rather use to it. But, if you are someone who is use to, or prefers, full voice over in a game, this part might bother you just a little bit.
Graphics are beautifully done. The environment seems rich and lively, jumping off of the screen. Vladdy is adorable looking, besides being a rather vulgar bear. The farm and the corn mix a tone of realism and cartoonish style, making the graphics fun and whimsical. That was a good choice on the developer’s end, the story is so insane, going too literal would not match the overall tone of the game. The cartoon aspect helps add to the humor and the overall insanity of what the player is experiencing.