Maize review for PS4, Xbox One, PC

Platform: PS4
Also On: PC, Xbox One
Publisher: Finish Line Games
Developer: Finish Line Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

As is often the case, everything you need to know about Maize can be summed up in a Simpsons quote from the show’s golden era. When Homer, Barney, Skinner and Apu are trying to come up with a band name in the episode Homer’s Barbershop Quartet, Skinner suggests, “We need a name that’s witty at first, but that seems less funny each time you hear it.”

That quote captures the essence of Maize better than anything else I could possible write. The game seems funny at first, but it runs into the law of diminishing returns really, really early on.

The overarching joke, such as it is, is that Maize is a game where you’re exploring the farm/underground research lab where a pair of scientists misinterpreted a memo from the U.S. Government and created walking, sentient corn. Also, your exploration involves you walking through a more-or-less set path. So: Maize/maze. Get it?

Of course, Maize should probably be applauded for not driving that joke too far into the ground, all things considered. After all, they don’t show nearly the same level of restraint anywhere else in the game. You discover, for example, that the two scientists who created the sentient corn loathed each other; this story is told via Post-It Notes left everywhere. While it could’ve been funny, the sheer volume of notes scattered throughout the farm and the facility lessen their impact. There’s only a certain number of times you can read variations on “I hate you” before they start to run together.

The same goes for the many, many collectibles scattered around the game. It’s funny once or twice to read about a rock you picked up or some old book lying around. It’s less funny to read “funny” descriptions on 75 different items, none of which are that hilarious. Likewise, you might initially chuckle when Vladdy, the obscene Russian version of Teddy Ruxpin, calls you stupid, an idiot, and a stupid idiot. As you can imagine, it loses a lot of its humour when you’ve heard Vladdy call literally everything some variation on that nonstop over two hours.

The repetition is made all the more noticeable by the fact the gameplay is…well, also pretty repetitive. Maize is less a labyrinth, and more a constant funneling towards the next cutscene. Your way is blocked off by boxes, and when the game wants you to go somewhere else, the boxes appear elsewhere. The puzzles aren’t very interesting either. Basically, you pick up everything you see, and when you need to interact with something, you try every single item until you find the one that the developers considered sufficiently wacky. Like everything else in the game, it all gets pretty tiresome pretty quickly.

Funny games are, of course, one of the hardest things for a developer to pull off. Humour is almost entirely subjective, and what one person finds hilarious, another just won’t. As such, I recognize that someone, somewhere, might find Maize to be the funniest thing ever. I, however, did not, which means I can’t wait to be done this review so I never have to think about it again.

Grade: D