Maquette is a tricky game to explain in words, but here goes. This first-person puzzler is set in a recursive universe — meaning each iteration of the world contains within it a smaller version of itself. By extension, that means there are ever-larger worlds beyond your reach. It's one of those concepts that's easier to understand with a visual, and the moment you enter the game's main area, it all clicks into place.
At the centre of each chapter is an ornate dome, and within this dome is a smaller version of the environment you occupy. What this means in terms of puzzle solving is that you'll need to grow or shrink things to help you reach new areas. Say you find a key, but it's too large to fit into a door. You pick it up, drop it somewhere in the courtyard, go inside the dome, and pick up that same key, now much smaller. This is a very simple early example, but the concept allows for some properly head-scratching, mind-bending puzzles. We don't want to spoil too much, but the idea of scale is explored in some brilliant ways.
Having said that, one thing we feel lets the game down is that it doesn't push its core concept far enough. It's a unique mechanic, and some of the puzzles present are great, but it feels like it all comes to an end before the recursive world idea can truly blossom. Also, while you're messing about trying to figure out a puzzle, it can be all too easy to get yourself stuck. This happened to us a couple of times, and while you can hold Triangle to return to the dome at any time — or simply load a previous save — we'd argue you shouldn't be able to wind up stuck at all.
Running in parallel with the puzzle-centric gameplay is a refreshingly "normal" story. As you progress and explore your surroundings, text will appear, keeping you mindful of the narrative throughout. After solving a puzzle, you're usually treated to a short sequence of dialogue, accompanied by some wonderful artwork. It's a story of one couple's relationship, but what's remarkable about it is its simplicity. It's rare in games, or any media really, for a narrative to focus solely on a very human element without resorting to fantasy or entering grim territory.
Unfortunately, the writing isn't particularly strong. Those dialogue scenes between the two characters (portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard and Seth Gabel) often feel unnatural or awkward. While the story is admirably low key, it means any missteps in the script are that much more apparent, because there's nowhere to really hide.
On the plus side, the game's colourful art style is consistently good, and the buildings and other environments look fantastic. The visuals are accompanied by some great music choices that set the mood for their respective chapters. Additionally, the game runs at a near-locked 60 frames-per-second, loads in next to no time, and makes subtle but welcome use of the DualSense's features.
Maquette is a fascinating puzzle game with a unique central mechanic. This leads to some super clever puzzles that will really test your grey matter. However, we can't help but feel that the concept's potential isn't quite fulfilled. Similarly, the story is pretty unique among games, but the execution just isn't quite there. Overall, it's an enjoyable experience that puzzle lovers should sample — just don't expect it to change the world.