When Maize was announced earlier in the year, it caught the attention of the many due to its whacky premise: a secret facility where sentient corn is commonplace and teddy bears come to life. On the face of it, there was plenty of potential humour and fun content to play off for developer Finish Line Games but it all went out the window when we finally sat down and put the game through its paces.
Cringeworthy humour can be entertaining in its own right, particularly when used well, but its risk lies in the fact that it is positively painful to endure if it’s not executed properly. It is not executed properly in Maize. Obviously, a game based on sentient corn is going to be a little bit silly and it’s expected that things are going to be a little different to other games in the genre, but a very small repertoire of bad jokes being repeated for five hours straight turns from monotonous to infuriating very quickly. Its only saving grace in this regard is that the voice acting is quite solid, particularly for an indie game.
When a game releases with such an insane premise and quirky claims at humour the first thought that springs to mind is: ‘what is it hiding?’. For the most part, this question tends to fall by the wayside as we realise that not everyone is hiding something, but Maize is certainly hoping that you get their sense of humour so you don’t realise just how basic the rest of the game is.
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Okay, graphically it’s pretty solid. Nothing to write home about, but solid. Gameplay, though, is an entirely different issue. The ‘adventure’ of this adventure/puzzle game is entirely in the story and almost non-existent in the gameplay. Everything is painfully straightforward and there’s almost no puzzle solving through the entirety of the game. Pick up items, use items on other items. Each item and usable object in the world (and there aren’t many) is very obviously highlighted and if something doesn’t serve a purpose, it’s not interactive. This eliminates all critical thought on the player’s behalf as you scour the landscape picking up everything you can before cycling through each of your items on each objective to see which one works, which doesn’t take long.
Falling flat in both of these areas means the game just isn’t enjoyable for any period of time longer than you’re able to put up with the eccentric humour. It’s possible that it could have been so much more tolerable with a bit of thoughtful gameplay involved, but there’s little reason to continue past the opening half of this game unless you’re somehow entertained by the story and humour.
It’s proof to developers that humour should be a garnish they use on an already strong game to accentuate the experience, rather than throwing a ‘funny’ idea out there and then building a game and hoping it will stand up on the hilarity of the situation.