I know, Maize is not in early access, however, the game recently released on console and Finish Line Games was kind enough to give me a key, so this review will be from my experience with the early release of the game on Xbox One.
Maize reminded me why I love first-person shooters. They are straightforward and I know exactly what to do. I am terrible at puzzles. To my surprise, however, Maize offered just the right balance of difficulty to keep a player like me from quitting in frustration, while still challenging enough to actually keep me engaged and wanting to find out what's next.
So What's The Story?
I was dropped into a cornfield with no context whatsoever. At first, this was a little offputting but being familiar with the genre I had a good idea what to do, so off I go to explore.
The fact that there is no preface to what I was doing actually plays into the story later on (no spoilers). The game is very kind in this regard as it often points me in the way I need to go. It makes finding puzzle pieces easy however you still need to have some problem-solving skills about you. There are even very specific clues or hints in the description of each item you find.
The story itself is very well written. I love the humor and wit behind the characters and the way the story is told. By the end, I realized the complete story is a little dark and there are some questions left unanswered. It is up to the player to find and read the information that is available.
Although the game does a great job helping the player with problem-solving, you really need to pay attention to fully experience the story… and you don't want to miss it. When an ending leaves something to the imagination it makes for an excellent story in my opinion.
How Does This All Work?
At the end of the day, Maize is a walking simulator, puzzler. The gameplay is straightforward. Use the sticks to move 'A' or right trigger to interact, left trigger to "sprint" 'X' and 'Y' for inventory descriptions.
I am also a big fan of the inventory management system… there is none. All the items you gather that can be used are simply put in a queue at the top of your screen. You can switch between them using right or left bumper. Once the item is used it is removed from your inventory. Also, there are never more than a few items in your inventory at one time. This makes it easier to keep track of what is available to use.
The garbage you collect in the game goes into a separate "folio" menu. I usually ignore these type of collectibles but, as I mentioned before, the descriptions help flesh out the story. In Maize this garbage cleverly serves as a storytelling device.
In The End
As the credits rolled I found myself wanting to see more. It was truly a great story. Because of this, I am willing to overlook some of the issues I had.
From a development standpoint, I don't feel the game is well optimized for the console. There were several frame stutters and often enough that I had come to expect it, the game would freeze on the loading screen between chapters causing me to quit out completely. The developers may need to take look at some ways to improve this.
From a creative standpoint the music in the opening chapter, to me, was much like chewing on a piece of tinfoil. If you like the old Casio keyboard from the 80s you may enjoy it more than I did. To my relief, the music did improve and change to fit more with the story after the first chapter.
I understand the addition of the sidekick as comic relief but it got old after a while and the incessant squeaking when he walked drove me crazy!
Again, I was able to overlook these few issues as I truly enjoyed my experience with Maize. The game currently has a "Very Positive" on Steam out of the 200 or so reviews and is at 4.5 stars on Microsoft. I would have to agree with this and if you like the all be it odd, bit of humor in a game and have about five to eight hours to invest I would highly recommend Maize.
If you would like to more of my thoughts on this game then check out my conversation with Max over at our partner channel GameCast TV.