Have you ever awoken from a blackout to find yourself stuck within a maize field? No? Well, neither have I, but unfortunately for our protagonist that is exactly where he finds himself. Dazed and confused, you first objective is to gather your bearings and find out what exactly is happening. For the first hour, Maize seems your normal first person adventure game. But, stumbling across different landmarks, you start to untangle the story and discover that the maize field… isn’t quite normal.
The field was created by two scientists who misinterpreted a memo from the US Government, and thus create sentient corn. So… talking corn. Yes, you heard me. The side dish that is barely considered unless with KFC provides the first part of the narrative, as they ambush you before you enter the underground facility. The dialogue is full of wit and humour, breaking the silence you endured during the opening act. From then on, the characters become more wacky and outlandish. Your character is a mute, so within the underground facility, you craft your own Frankenstein monster in Vladdy. Unfortunately, Vladdy isn’t your biggest fan. You are as he describes “American Garbage” and a “Stupid Idiot”, and he just generally insults you as he performs tasks, seeming extremely grumpy. The grumpiness was endearing to begin with, but it soon became stale, with every line featuring one of those exact same phrases. In the end I wanted a pitchfork, to end my creation.
The game also feels very disjointed– I feel the creators just up and somehow decided on sentient corn, then tried to expand in a really weird way with more unusual character designs, resulting in the encounters themselves being very hit and miss. Some were genuinely funny, but even those first encounters came to feel forced because they decided to recycle the same joke constantly. If you’re a fan of offbeat humour, then the gags are there for you to enjoy, but sometimes I felt they came across as a little corny. The best interactions throughout Maize is that between the two scientists, who left sticky notes for each other around the facility. Both had very different ideologies and visualisations of how the Maize field could be used, and it was amusing to read the back and forth disagreements.
Moving aside from the surreal characters and tongue in cheek humour, Maize is a first-person adventure game. While venturing through the different areas, you’re able to pick up certain items which can assist in you progressing further. Maize doesn’t really provide any on screen tips, instead having you inspect the items you find, to gather hints on how to use them. Items can be combined with other items to craft the equipment you need to continue, which is again very generic, and fans that are familiar with the genre will find it unchallenging. Most of the puzzles worked in the same way, initially finding the overarching problem, then having to solve lots of little puzzles to ultimately complete your goal. There are also collectibles scattered throughout, adding little bits of information about the experiments, while still keeping the same tongue in cheek format. Maize doesn’t run long enough to get boring, however; clocking in at 3 to 4 hours on the first playthrough, the puzzles are engaging enough to keep the player entertained.
When my character awoke from his blackout I was ambushed by blistering sunlight as it pierced through the thick maize field. Finish Line Games have produced a game that certainly drips characters. The character designs reminded me of creations ripped straight out of a Roald Dahl novel, with more outlandish creations appearing the further you ventured in. There was a considerable difference in frame rate when top side of the maize to when you were in the underground facility. Within the field it would seem slow to respond, as if it were trying to catch up, whereas in the facility it would be perfectly fine. The areas themselves were quite small compared to other first-person adventure games, however Maize manages to use the space perfectly. There was not much lingering between areas, I didn’t become frustrated at the length of the puzzles.