In the mood for something a bit corny? Finish Line Games have got you covered with their latest title, Maize. The second title from a group of veteran developers from Toronto (now gone indie) will put you smack dab in the middle of a cornfield in this first-person adventure game. I do enjoy a good adventure game and especially one with an interesting premise, you could even say it perked my ears up. Now, enough of stalking about and time to check out the game. As for the corn related puns, I will try keep them to a minimum from here on out, aww shucks!
Since Maize is an adventure game, the story is an integral part. With that in mind, as always, I will try and keep any spoilers out, but I do apologize in advance if a kernel or two spill out. You start out, not very surprisingly, in a cornfield. Luckily, there have been some paths carved out for you to explore. Scattered throughout the maize maze, you’ll come across several points of interest and along the way pick up items. Some far more important than others.
On your journey you will encounter a small, Russian talking teddy bear who may or may not resemble a more obnoxious version of Teddy Ruxpin. Ok, he absolutely resembles him, but no sign of Grubby, however. Which is probably a missed opportunity as growing up staring at a cornfield more days than not, I can tell you very definitively there are plenty of corn worms. 80s toys references aside, Vlady is there to help you along the way in your investigation as to what the heck is going on continues. Apart from the rare times he is actually useful, his main purpose seems to be questioning why you keep picking up garbage and making a god awful squeaking sound when he walks.
A little more diversity in the dialog from him would be appreciated, although it’s not as obnoxious as some little fairy saying “HEY! LISTEN!” over and over. The squeaking he makes while walking, however, did touch a nerve. I found myself running from area to area just so I wouldn’t have to listen to it. Throughout the game there are 75 different “meaningless” objects to collect along with the actual useful ones. I managed to find 72 of them the first go around, and I’d be willing to bet that the 3 I missed were when I was trying to keep my sanity by not hearing that infernal squeaking and running from place to place, not taking proper time to comb the area.
The rest of the CliffsNotes, not too spoiler-y edition of the story is 2 scientists wound up making sentient corn. The non-essential pick up items also have descriptions which can further clue you into the backstory of these 2 scientists and some rocks for good measure. In case you miss too many of those, there are also post-it note conversations plastered on areas throughout between the 2 scientists. Long story short, one’s a complete idiot, the other hates him for being an idiot. Of course, that is not all there is to it, but it’s far better to find out by playing through.
When it comes to the story, it all is a bit silly. Which is fine in my book, not everything needs to take itself so seriously. A lot of the humor, however, is repeated very often. While hearing and seeing the same jokes over and over didn’t annoy me, I did pretty much just tune it out. I could see if you are more of a grump than me that you might get annoyed with it, but I think the overall quirky nature of the story in itself was enough to give it a passing grade in that regard.
Humor and quirkiness aside, there is at least one other big reveal in the story. Once you begin to meet some of the corn, it will become apparent that not everything may be what you think it is at the start. While not ruining the surprise, there were some fairly obvious clues in the surroundings and dialog that, even slightly before the midpoint of the story, helped me to easily work out the answer to a big question. It was slightly disappointing when that information was “revealed” since you’d have to be pretty thick not to have worked that one out by then. It wasn’t really a shock, just confirmation of something you were already 99.99% sure of anyway.
The gameplay is fairly straightforward. The layout is in first-person view with a little cursor that you can hover over objects. Anything that you can pick up is conveniently given a white outline. You can also run instead of your regular walk, which comes in handy when you want to put some distance between you and a squeaking Russian teddy bear. The paths to take are pretty clear. Any place that you aren’t supposed to be or isn’t important at that time is blocked off. While this might be a minus for some, I have no issue with this, as it prevents a needless waste of time retreading over large areas trying to figure out what to do next and being on the completely opposite side of the map. While many things are indeed obvious, the story does a pretty good job of accounting for that. There were only three instances that took me longer than it should. One wasn’t so obvious what it wanted from me, and with the others the objects I needed were rather small in a cluttered location or so small that even staring straight at them, knowing what I was looking for, I still didn’t realize which was it.
The game art is very good. Maize is built with Unreal Engine 4, and honestly, I’ve yet to come across a game using UE4 that didn’t look pretty fabulous. I’m sure there’s one out there to prove me wrong, but even the retro platformer Unbox (review here) looks great in UE4. The music in the game is essentially non-existent except for a few key places and at the end of the game, where it does indeed become rather important. I did enjoy the music when its turn came about.
Developer: Finish Line Games
Publisher: Finish Line Games
Release Date: 1st December 2016