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Maize

Maize is a first person adventure game that has the player exploring an abandoned farm turned research facility now overrun with sentient corn people. The player begins the game at the edge of a corn maize as three corn people hastily retreat into the fields. The corn fields do not contain a "maize" (heh get it?) so much as direct paths towards the next objective. Over the stalks you can see the other landmarks of the farm, such as a barn and grain silo which does help build anticipation towards the upcoming adventure. Although an adventure game at heart, the gameplay itself is very streamlined. The map opens up in a linear fashion, with each area holding relevant puzzle items that glow to stand out from the rest of the environment.

As someone who is usually turned off by adventure games because of the obtuseness of most solutions, maize feels very intuitive. Each item you pick up has a viewable description that gives just enough help that it makes clear the item's purpose, without making the game feel like it's solving itself. There was only a handful of times where I felt completely stumped, and it was usually because I didn't notice an item rather than the solution to my problem was not deducible. Each area is fairly separate, each item you find is usually used to solve a puzzle in that area. There isn't much item carry-over, or inventory bloat. You're never carrying more than 4 items at any given time. To hardcore adventure fans this may be a negative, the gameplay loop is essentially get to a new area, run around collecting every item, and then find where each item needs to be placed to unlock the next area.

In Maize, the main enjoyment comes from the adventure itself. The map is filled with collectibles that fill in the gaps behind the now abandoned research facility. Once in the underground area, notes between the 2 main researchers, Bob and Ted become the main source of "narrative." Maize markets itself as an "absurd" game, and really does push that to its limits over the course of the game. Initially, the absurditiy is fine, welcome even; it gives the game a lighthearted tone and flows well with the straightforward gameplay loop. Unfortunately, the game never really grows with its humor, instead choosing to reuse the exact same joke over and over. The corn people love taking naps, the teddy bear robot companion that you find about halfway through the game thinks you're an idiot, and Ted gets irrationally frustrated with Bob because he keeps wasting money on lobbies in the research center.

The story itself also doesn't really land. Once the newness of the adventure wears off, there isn't really much left. While you eventually learn why this world is a puzzle, the game doesn't really set up or earn it, instead deciding and literally telling you "so that's a thing." It's a lazy trick that the writers use, hiding behind the "haha our game is absurd" claim, thinking that excuses them from telling a clean and coherent story. Some things are built up, like a trapped corn Queen, and some seemingly evil corn guy, but both of those don't really go anywhere. Similarly, the identity of the player is eventually revealed, and is equally hollow and unnecessary from a story perspective.

That said, the world is interesting enough to explore that it doesn't get boring. I beat the game in a single sitting in under 3 hours according to steam playtime and enjoyed it. The gameplay is definitely simplified, but it doesn't really hinder the overall experience. Some better variety in the humor would have been appreciated in the game's third act, but the whole game is so short that it doesn't really tarnish the overall experience.

Rating: 3.5/5

Value: Wait for a sale