2016 has been a red-hot dumpster fire. I haven’t been able to muster up the courage to even turn on the news since November, though I can’t seem to escape any of it no matter how hard I try. And on a personal note, this stain of a year was no better; I’ll spare you the details, but rest assured that it mostly sucked.
Suffice it to say that this year has been full of disappointments. Which is why I want to talk about a game that went above and beyond my expectations and, for the few hours it took to play through, transported me thousands of miles from the harsh reality blues of this year. I want to talk about Maize, a first-person indie video game created by a small studio based in Toronto called Finish Line Games. The premise is simple, if a bit absurd: two “scientists” mistakenly create sentient corn, and you are left to explore an abandoned farm and an elaborate underground research facility. By solving puzzles and navigating through the rich environments, you uncover the mysteries surrounding you. And along the way, you might even learn about yourself, the main character. Maybe.
Let me just start by saying that even though the premise is bizarre–sentient corn, wtf?–the game was clearly made with love. I mean, come on! It looks stunning. Check out some of these screenshots:
The game is rife with beautifully rendered environments in which the player can scamper about. But while I admittedly came for the graphics and weird premise, I stayed for everything else. Maize does so many things right I don’t even know where to begin. But I guess I have to start somewhere.
The writing is excellent. Maize is sometimes genius, usually stupid, and painfully self-aware. The pitch-perfect humor made me feel like I was being treated to something written by the (Monty) Pythons or Douglas Adams. There were moments that had me face-palming, groaning to myself, or bursting into laughter because of the sheer stupidity of certain characters. Its fourth-wall breaking meta discourse through snarky inventory descriptions had me rolling. Most of the back story is told through ridiculous post-it notes, while the thoughtful visual storytelling helps you fill in the rest. Take your time and take in your surroundings, otherwise you might miss some subtle foreshadowing.
Gameplay clocked in at around three hours, and the pacing felt just right. The middle does admittedly start to drag in places, but by the time the story is ready to wrap up, I didn’t want it to end. I don’t want to spoil anything, but its ending is one of the most glorious and asinine payoffs I’ve seen in a video game. It’s everything. It’s oddly heart-wrenching, it’s hilarious, and of course it’s certifiably stupid. If you don’t love it I don’t want to even look at you.
Maize is, for all intents and purposes, a whimsical and weird adventure game, and it is 100% earnest from start to finish. I laughed, I laugh-cried, and I even genuinely cried. To be fair though, my cry-bar is very, very low.
If you enjoy fun puzzles, hilarity, and games that don’t take themselves too seriously, please give Maize a shot. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I fell in love with it. Entertaining, heartfelt, and thoroughly enjoyable, Maize is nothing short of wonderful, and is a much needed respite from the rest of this dumpster fire of a year. 9/10.
Buy it on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/284240/