*Disclaimer: A code for Maize was given by the Developers for review purposes
From the minds at Canadian studio Finish Line Games comes Maize, a game about sentient corn, arguably one of the gems to surface from the indie game industry this year. The name, paired with the premise, was enough to draw my interest immediately. Available on Steam for £14.99, Maize is pitched as a first-person story rich puzzle game, which is perhaps the most apt description for an ingenious game with a complementary quirky sense of humour demonstrated via characters, items collected and action prompts, which also appropriately contains a couple of mazes.
Aside from exploration, the main aims of the protagonist are not divulged until partway through, but it’s easy enough to get wrapped up in the game world and atmosphere for this not to be an issue. Character insights, along with the narrative of the game, are revealed through sticky notes scattered throughout the environment and items which can be picked up and added to your ‘folio’. Much of what is learned about the protagonist is gleaned from the descriptions associated with items, as they often give indications of characteristics like intelligence, often humorous in nature and particularly helpful since you play a silent protagonist.
Maize does have strict linear progression as certain paths, blocked by stacks of orange boxes, are only made available once particular tasks have been completed. Although this can sometimes feel frustratingly restrictive, it is actually explained by the narrative and does simplify progression. It’s possible that the concept of Maize and its style of humour may not appeal to all, but it possesses an endearing charm mixed with a sense of intrigue and mystery. After all, it’s a game about sentient corn in which you acquire a surprising companion you’ll be hard pressed not to love.
Nevertheless, there are some relatively minor issues like built-in, movement-based camera bobbing which takes some time to get accustomed to, occasional performance issues with lagging and some texture clipping issues, though these didn’t necessarily distract from the enjoyment factor offered by Maize. The aspect most likely to be a sticking point is the price in relation to game length, as the game takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete, which may make £15 seem a little steep. However, it’s entirely possible that if the length of Maize were to be increased, for example by removing the signposting of usable or key objects, some of the charm and atmosphere might have been lost and the game could have felt unnecessarily drawn out.
Overall, Maize is a refreshing and enjoyable adventure filled with surprises and originality, that I feel glad to have played. Well worth picking up, especially if there’s a sale, if you like wacky and wonderful. When it comes down to it, it’s a game involving sentient corn, so why not?