When we received the code for Maize, a comedic first-person adventure game about sentient corn, we were obviously intrigued. How could we not be? The key art features a stalk of corn listening to a boom box, and in an industry that can at times feel bereft of fresh ideas, this left-field offering from Finish Line Games excited us. Not only did it look like an off the wall adventure title, but it was ambitiously shooting for that rarest of things in video games: comedy. So few games are genuinely funny. Interested to discover the mystery behind the whole corn thing, we started Maize, hope in our hearts for a hilarious, off-piste experience.
We began our adventure in – surprise! – a maize field, with a clear path forward and a strangely ominous piece of music looping indefinitely. As we explored the environment, wondering exactly when we would encounter the sentient corn, we picked up various objects, such as an English muffin and a rock. Some of these items went into our inventory, while others were compiled in the Folio, a screen which documents specific things that may or may not bear any relevance to the main plot. Our English muffin went into our regular inventory, while the rock was put in the Folio, where further reading informed us that its name was Chauncey.
Bemused yet undeterred, we pressed on, underwhelmed by the quality of the writing within each item description. The corn field eventually branched out to other areas, such as a farmhouse and a large barn. Puzzles were slowly introduced as we acquired more items and explored the farm. They didn’t stray from the tried and true “use item A on object B” style of puzzle, which wasn’t a problem in itself, but the puzzles didn’t grow in complexity. It very quickly devolved into a search for things we could pick up, finding an interactive entity, and cycling through our inventory until something worked.
After completing certain puzzles, we unlocked new pathways, which were previously blocked off by walls of orange crates and boxes. Eventually we discovered a document which provided context for these obstructions, but it still felt like a clumsy way of guiding us through the farm. The looping music continued to instil an air of mystery, and we continued to wish it would stop.
Eventually we encountered the sentient stalks of corn we’d been promised all along, and we were looking forward to hearing what they had to say. Much like the writing for the item descriptions, the dialogue was poor, unfunny, and tryhard. The lines were delivered with a decent level of competency, but none of the jokes landed, and we were beginning to get the feeling that, perhaps, Maize might not be as good as we’d hoped.
Of course, we persevered and forged ahead in the story which, after the first hour or so, finally began to gather a little pace. The looping music from the farm was replaced with another loop during our time in an underground facility, just to keep things fresh.
Unfortunately, the puzzles refused to evolve; the difficulty curve plateaued after the first half an hour. We got the sense that the developer was shooting for the quirky and unusual puzzles found in classic adventure games like Secret of Monkey Island, but it all felt a little forced.
With the puzzles a disappointment, we could only rely on the characters and the story to carry our interest forward, but we had a feeling that the writing wasn’t going to improve. It didn’t. Bob and Ted, two scientists whose story is told through a series of sticky note conversations, were both difficult to like. A villain-like figure named the Cornacabra was better but, again, suffered from writing that tries so hard to be irreverent and funny that it completely misses the mark. Perhaps the worst character, however, was Vladdy, a permanently grumpy Russian robot-teddy that accompanied us on our journey. He called us an idiot at every given opportunity which, as you can imagine, began to grate fairly quickly.
As far as the story was concerned, there was only one revelation that truly surprised us, while an inexplicable amount of plot threads went unresolved. The item descriptions in the Folio, which we read as we went along, answered some questions, but left others wide open, instead preferring to indulge in yet more misjudged attempts at humour.
As the credits rolled, we reflected on our time with Maize, and wondered if there was anything positive we could derive from the experience. Graphically it wasn’t too bad, although it has a rather generic look that doesn’t exactly inspire. Technical performance was also okay, with only a couple of long load times to worry about. The voice acting was fairly well done. That’s about it.
We wish we had more positive things to say about Maize, but unfortunately, it just doesn’t have much going for it. The story and writing are atrocious, the characters are forgettable, and the puzzles themselves are too easy. The game is honestly quite boring, despite its bizarre premise, and the attempts at humour are ham-fisted at best and excruciating at worst. If you’re after something different, Maize is certainly that, but be warned that it may leave a bad taste in your mouth.