by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
Maize is weird. It’s a game whose backstory involves two scientists creating sentient corn for the U.S. government. It plays like adventure games of old in first-person, where you point and click on various objects as you combine them to solve puzzles. It’s got an interesting art style and some great music throughout that helps to keep the experience from being boring.
But mostly, Maize is really weird. And I kind of like that.
You begin the game by waking up in the middle of a farm that is inhabited by talking corn. You have no idea what you are doing on the farm, nor do you have any idea why the corn is able to talk, and those hoping for answers to either of those questions are going to be out of luck. From the get go, Maize provides limited hints and explanations for what you should do next and the reason behind it, barring the occasional on screen text that pops up to press you forward. The lack of context is especially noticeable at the start, where the weirdness takes some time to get going. I was frequently left wondering why I was doing what I was doing.
Now, I need to be fully clear - when I say Maize is weird, I consider that to be a good thing. It’s also the only way you can describe a game involving talking corn, a poorly run government project where two scientists communicated via passive aggressive post-it-notes, and a talking Russian teddy bear named Vladdy. The weirdness became my primary motivation for playing the game, as I wanted to find out what ridiculous cutscene or scenario awaited me after the next puzzle. For the most part I was pleasantly surprised, though there are several instances, particularly involving the aforementioned Vladdy, where I grew tired of the game’s shtick of everyone talking in silly voices. It’s great in small doses, but the longer the cutscene, the more it felt forced.
The weakest section of Maize is arguably the beginning, where characters are slowly introduced and much of your time is spent wandering around to find one or two objects that are needed to complete a puzzle. By comparison, the latter half of the game is much more interesting as the game throws several curve-balls in the story that kept me engaged and improved upon their jokes significantly.
Most of the time you wander around farmland and underground labs in your quest to find objects to complete a certain task. There’s not much challenge in solving puzzles, as every usable object in the game is highlighted, notifying you that you should pick it up even if you haven’t stumbled across where the object should be used first. Maize often doesn’t give you a reason why you should complete a puzzle or why you should place an object on a table. I just did it because I could, and the arbitrary nature of most of its puzzles is a detriment to the game.
What keeps Maize from becoming too boring in its quieter moments is the way the game looks and sounds. Environments are varied and interesting to look at, and I was very much creeped out in my first 30 minutes due to the overpowering presence of the cornfields. And while I am not a fan of the voice acting - I think it is grating and tiresome throughout - the actual music captures the game’s B-movie-esque spirit well. In particular, the main vocal track that pops up throughout the latter half of the story is a pleasant highlight, particularly because it is both funny and surprisingly catchy.
Maize, despite its problems, is certainly one of the most unique games I’ve played over the past year. I completed it in just under three hours, though players who want to find all the collectibles, each with their own humorous description, will certainly spend longer time on it. The jokes don’t land as often as they should and the gameplay is very straightforward, but for those looking for something weird, Maize is certainly a game worth your attention.
Weird. Like, really weird. Great music and art style.
Puzzles are simple yet lack context. Grating voice acting. Jokes often fall flat.