Every so often, we stumble upon games that are just so weird…they’re good. As a longtime Nintendo fan, this recalls basically anything from Japanese developer Skip Ltd. (Chibi-Robo, Captain Rainbow). Without all that makes them outlandish, these games would lose their charm and be worse off for it. It has been a long time since I played a game like Maize, arriving on consoles after a PC release last December. It’s a first-person adventure game where you combine a lot of exploring with placing items in their correct location. But what makes Maize most enjoyable is not really the gameplay, it’s the characters.
After a government mix-up, sentient corn was created and manage to always butt-in throughout your journey. You play as a silent protagonist who wakes up somewhere in a corn field. With nowhere else to go but forward, you eventually make your way into an abandoned farmhouse and slowly start putting the pieces together. The farmhouse eventually leads you to an underground research facility. Basically, the entire game has you running around picking up items that can be combined or used with other items to clear a blocked path. As you reach new areas, you are typically doing these same things, with some story dialogue and cutscenes breaking up the action. There are a couple gameplay change-ups in the form of navigating a crane and a dancing minigame which made for a nice change of pace. Before long you find yourself helping the corn and their queen in a quirky adventure that will take an average player about five hours.
Controls are simple and straight forward; our character can walk, run, crouch, pick up and interact with objects. Gamers of all skill levels shouldn’t have a problem making their way around. About one-third into the story, you team with Vladdy, a grouchy Russian teddy bear. Vladdy’s small stature comes in handy for crawling into vents and helping our character open mechanical doors. The rest of the time he is tagging along calling you and everyone else stupid. While I enjoyed the humorous tone that Vladdy brings to the game, his constant use of the word “stupid” gets old and makes it hard to recommend Maize to younger gamers. The corn characters are easily my favorite, as they are: British, forgetful, and always desiring a nap.
Maize has a unique art style that screams, great for an indie game but low budget if it were from a major publisher. I enjoyed the facial animations of Vladdy and the corn characters, but some other areas are just too static. Nothing really moves or falls over if you touch it and it just doesn’t seem very smooth when running around. The voice acting is a definite highlight in Maize, as every character has a distinct voice that suits them. I wish the loading times were shorter and having an option to skip cutscenes would be nice as well.
After completing Maize, you can retry any of the 9 chapters via chapter select. There are also 75 collectables (known as folio) to keep you busy. Finally, there is an included achievement for completing the game under 2-hours in a single sitting. Even if you played the game yourself first then used a speedrunning/collectables guide, you are still looking at a sub-ten-hour experience. Whether that is worth the $19.99 price tag is debatable.
One thing is for sure, Maize is a game unlike any other. The sheer lunacy of talking British corn and a foul-mouth Russian teddy bear is enough to solidify that statement. The gameplay is enjoyable, especially if you are a fan of walking simulators or games where you must figure out how to use objects you find. I would have liked shorter load times and a bit more fluidity and interaction with the environments. I see most gamers enjoying Maize, but very few returning to the cornfield for another trip around the farm.