Maize is a game about exploring an abandoned facility that was once populated by two idiotic government scientists.
Misinterpreting their mission, they accidentally created sentient corn and now, you must explore the empty laboratory and surrounding fields. Your only companion is a Russian teddy bear who despises idiots and American manufacturing. Maize is weird, wacky and almost wonderful.
As you may have guessed, Maize is not a game which takes itself seriously – and it’s all the better for it. In fact, its nonsensical narrative is its greatest strength as the first-person point and click gameplay rarely provides any meaningful interaction or challenge. The actual game feels more like a walking simulator hidden under the guise of a parody on point and clicks.
That isn’t exactly a criticism either. I often found myself at odds with classic LucasArts adventure games due to their generally ridiculous and downright senseless solutions at times. You can argue it was all part of the charm, sure, but it’s nice to see it poked fun at once in a while. Everything is made easy by each interactive item having a white outline surrounding it when near and only things actually useful are highlighted. Along with notes and such you’ll find while wandering, items are either added to your folio or added to your inventory to fiddle with later.
Because of course you will need an empty fruit crate and half of a broken shovel to move a wardrobe. If you couldn’t figure that out by the obvious blue outline wherever you can interact with something, the item description will tell you. That’s the point. Sometimes the humour doesn’t quite hit the mark and, instead of feeling like a joke, it feels more like a really easy puzzle game. Maize can be hilarious in its absurdity but sometimes dull in its mundanity.
One of the largest complaints you could put towards Maize is just that, sometimes, jokes don’t land. Or, they hit you with the same joke so many times it just starts to grate. In particular is Vladdy, the Russian bear. I summed him up earlier as the guy who hates idiots and American machines because that is all he is. Every piece of dialogue and every remark is based around three singular things.
For every joke that misses however, at least two hit. The standouts coming from the various post-it notes you’ll find from the scientists. Bob and Ted are complete and polar opposites yet entirely equal in their stupidity. Through each of their dialogue, along with other enviromental cues and clues, you’ll slowly piece together the backstory – almost as absurd as the story itself.
As expected there is a little fourth-wall breaking and other referential nods too. Some may be put off by the linearity and length however. Again, Maize comes up with a rather humorous and story-based solution to players wandering off track. You can’t. Paths you’ve previously been down and don’t need to return to are literally blocked off. It fits entirely within the game itself, although like with the item interactions, the parody means there is, in fact, little challenge here. The whole thing becomes quite linear – but quells any frustration that may have arisen.
Technically, Maize is a little bit of a mess. The visuals and graphical quality are pretty high but are marred by some framerate and heavy motion blur problems. Luckily, the developer gives a handy guide on turning off motion blur on the Steam Discussions page – presumably an in-game option is being worked on. Barring one particularly great song used throughout, the sound and soundtrack is kept to a minimum – with decent animations and voice-acting helping the story shine.
The ugliest problem comes from the general UI. The font-choice is, for all intents and purposes, awful, and navigating the – relatively few – menus can be annoying. A small problem but some that’s irksome nonetheless.
What I will say, however: Finish Line Games are ones to watch. Even with certain problems, some that stand out more than others, there is some semblance of greatness in Maize – particularly in the writing and humour that shines through the absurdity. The ending left a massive smile on my face, even if I sometimes felt the opposite when actually playing. Maize feels like a three-hour long setup to a joke that, while sometimes slow, pays off very well – and achieves a hearty chuckle.