Maize is a first-person adventure game about sentient corn, and that right there is a sentence I never expected to have to commit to page. Waking up in a corn field with no recollection of past events, you soon discover an abandoned research facility responsible for giving life and cognitive function to stalks of corn. Heated rivalries, government cover-ups and a loud-mouthed, robotic teddy bear with a thick Russian accent await in this four-ish hour, linear experience.
For most of Maize, you’ll find yourself walking around either the exterior of the abandoned farm, or skulking the labyrinthine research facility hidden beneath it, looking for answers while being funnelled towards the game’s conclusion. The game plays like an old school point-and-click adventure, and has you collecting a plethora of incidental objects and using them in various ways to progress. While games of this ilk typically aim to challenge the mind, it’s clear here that the developers were aiming more for a pseudo-parody of the genre as opposed to something to compete with its peers. Solutions vary wildly from painfully obvious to bewilderingly obtuse, but almost always exist in a vacuum, and are clearly highlighted and spelled out each time, making them less about solving logic than simply wandering around each location and picking up every important object. Occasionally, you’ll call on the help of your robotic bear friend, Vladdy, to open up a door or two, but even these interactions are nothing more than selecting a highlighted object. Those seeking out challenging gameplay would do best to look elsewhere.
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The ridiculous sci-fi parody plot of Maize is the major draw here, full of Monty Python-esque dialogue backed up by surprisingly decent voice acting and animation for an indie title. The game constantly breaks the fourth wall, or does things that would be a complete faux pas in any serious narrative work, but (without spoiling anything) does so in ways that reveal themselves to be smarter than they initially seem. Poking at every corner of every room is made much less monotonous thanks to a litany of extraneous objects to find, all replete with their own ridiculous descriptions, ranging from groan-inducing to downright hilarious. My only gripe is that Maize runs a little too long for its own good – because the entire thing essentially plays out like one big joke, it’s hard to see why it was necessary to stretch it out over almost five hours. The first one-third of the game especially is a bit of a slog and could have been trimmed down considerably. Stick with it though, and you’ll be treated to a brilliant ending that serves up the punchline to a subtle joke that starts at the beginning of the game, followed by an even better credits roll.
Maize is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to presentation. From a technical standpoint, the visuals are nothing special, aside from the decent character animations in cutscenes, but they’re decent enough for an indie title and the overall look has a cool, eerie vibe. Menu and HUD elements, though come off as extremely amateurish. Plain-ass fonts, terrible grammar, and horribly basic menus cheapen the experience. Audio effects are neither here nor there, aside from the infuriatingly squeaky and constant sound of Vladdy walking, and ambient ‘music’ throughout the game consists of the same handful of synth notes played on a loop. The final moments of the game do come with some fantastic uses of actual music, though.
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Despite the completely unengaging gameplay, poor pacing and middling presentation, Maize’s humour and inherent quirkiness won me over by the end. Knowing that it carries an asking price of almost $30 AUD though makes it hard to recommend. Had the developers cut the runtime down by around half, and done the same with the price, it might have been a different story. Most importantly, holy shit – can you believe that there hasn’t been a single corn pun in the main body of this review?
Maize is first-person adventure game about sentient corn. While far from the cream of the crop, it pops thanks to some quirky and atmospheric environments to stalk around in, and truly corny dialogue to cob an earful of. It just shucks that the gameplay is but a husk of a true adventure title.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro