Dropped into the middle of a cornfield, with no explanation on who you are, Finish Line’s Maize will take you on a journey of discovery within a Scientific Research Facility. Your mission (possibly) to find out just what the two mad scientists were up to and why it all went horribly wrong. Along the way you will meet talking corn plants, find out about the scientists through an abudance of sarcastic post-it notes to each other and be accompanied by a grumpy Russian teddy-bear in a “mad as a box of frogs,” adventure which will equally delight, make you laugh, charm and frustrate you.
If you are of an older persuasion, then the first thing that will strike you about Maize is that it is like one of those old text adventures like Zork or The Hobbit. You know the ones – “Go North. Go North. You can’t go that way. Go West. You have reached a clearing with a big red door, It has 3 Sockets in it. Look Sockets…etc…”
In Maize, said door needs three objects to open it and here is where you need to use your brain and find the objects you will need, not only to open the door but to also solve the puzzles that give you the objects. It is this retro take on the old text adventure way of solving puzzles that actually makes Maize work so well. “I found a key, I’m sure I saw a locked toolbox somewhere.” Solving puzzles opens up new areas to explore, some of which you will find are conveniently blocked by piles of boxes until you solve a certain puzzle. Whilst the puzzles themselves can be challenging, they are clearly signposted. Usable objects will be outlined and even the area’s where you need to put the objects are clearly outlined making solving just that bit easier.
At the end of the first chapter you will get your first cut scene and here is where Maize’s humour comes into play. It’s very Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett like in its delivery. This humour will continue through the game via cut scenes and the utterly useless collectibles (really) and a mountain of post-it notes scattered arout the facility as one scientist wastes the budget and the other exasperates about it. Such is the infectious humour of Maize, that you will want to read every post-it note the deranged pair leave each other.
As you progress through the game you will meet other characters including the most ineffective villain you’ll come across in gaming. You will also acquire the aforementioned Teddy Bear who talks in a Russian accent and although he will follow you everywhere (well except when he tells you he won’t) he will insult you at every opportunity. His name is Vladdy and he is an absolute joy. A very cute feature is that Vladdy is likely to rant and grumble in Russian and if you have the subtitles on his Russian speech is actually in the Russian Language, which I found really fun.
Towards the end of the game, the story becomes clearer, and as you discover your own part in this, everything will start to make sense. The final chapter peels back every layer, one after the other, in a very satisfying way. You will finally understand what you have been doing and where you have been. There is also a finale that comes completely out of left field but somehow fits, in this madcap adventure. It’s all so beautifully weaved together and has an incredibly satisfying ending.
Controls are about as simple as they can be. Using the Left Stick to move, the Right Stick to look around. Pressing the Left Stick to crouch. Various buttons to interact or look at objects. Menu button will take you to the folio portion where there are descriptions of the objects you have collected. Left trigger will let you run and right bumper will cycle through the usable objects. Once an object has been used or combined it disappears from you inventory so managing objects is quite easy and you will probably only have about 5 to use in each chapter.
The graphics are nothing spectacular for an FPS based game but they do take on a cartoon element where Vladdy and the other characters. Locations are very well done and the cornfield mazes are quite eerie. The Underground Facility is different enough in each location so has to not look boring and the House you encounter early on is spooky. Animations are first-rate. Vladdy crawls along behind you, the talking corn have their own mannerisms and the “villain” is suitably manic.
Sound and Music
Sounds are adequately represented. Ambient noises in the outdoor scenes such as corn rustling, birds tweeting. Underground the sounds switch to the more machinery type. It never feels overbearing and voices come through loud and clear. Vladdy has his own set of sounds, the clunking and the noise of his servo’s can always be heard as he follows you around. Music is used to good effect evoking whatever area you appear to be in. If it’s outside and the cornfields it’s almost X-files sounding, whilst there is a nice electronic set of scores, underground.
It really is a mad, mad game but there is a lovely charm to it. Humour is well used throughout and its major strength is not revealing all it’s cards straight away letting you work for the story and wondering just what it is you are trying to achieve. Puzzles are fun, if not too taxing. Vladdy is adorable no matter how annoyed he gets. The voice acting is wonderful and the settings intriguing. Depending on how good you are at solving puzzles it will take you up 5 hours game time, although a speedster could complete it in about 2 hours. I’d still recommend it though, its unique enough to stand out from other FPS based puzzle games.