Talking corn, secret laboratories, and a grumpy Russian teddy bear: you should be playing Maize

What is it?
A ridiculously funny puzzle-based walking simulator that pushes your suspension of belief to the absolute limit.

Play it if you like...
The Stanley Parable, Magicka, Octodad, and anything that has you inanely grinning for most of the game.

Format: PC
Price: £14.99
Release date: Out now

Maize is about sentient corn. Walking, talking, bright yellow corn. At heart it’s a walking simulator with a few puzzles thrown in for good measure, taking you on a jaunt around an abandoned farm. You don’t start off with any quests. It’s up to you to explore, find out who you are, and why you’re there. As odd scientific diagrams plastered on barn walls start to become more frequent, your mission slowly becomes clear: find out the story behind these pieces of sentient corn. Your quest for answers will have you investigating an underground secret government laboratory, as well as the small nuclear power plant below the secret government laboratory. It’s not hard to believe all this is built beneath acres of lush green grass and swaying fields of corn, thanks to a few surreal set pieces you’ll encounter beforehand. At one point there’s a skeleton with a shock of white hair splayed out near a grain silo. A giant wooden statue of a man in a suit in the middle of a patch of corn. One of the oddest things you see is an office desk and chair in the middle of a grassy clearing. 'Back in ? minutes' is scrawled on a sign hanging on its front. It’s bright red, chirpy, and looks like it belongs in a diner. On top of the desk are some papers and an English muffin, which you can pick up. The muffin has no use, its description tells you. But now you’ve picked it up you can’t put it back down. Apparently, the words go on to say, this is because you’ve become attached to it. Weirdly enough, as the game goes on and I see it stay resolutely in my inventory, I do become attached to the doughy circle. Because, somehow, it’s easy to be swept along with Maize’s outlandish attitude.

'Pressing Q will not do anything', I am told by the white text which pops up on my screen. Taking inspiration from Mary quite contrary, I jab Q with my finger. It does nothing. My finger stabs it again. It still does nothing. Throughout the game text pops up reminding me that Q doesn’t do anything, yet even now I can’t be sure if I missed a point where it does have some use. Similarly the witty, slightly snide descriptions of every item you pick up to put in your folio (a section for collectable odds and ends) make you conscious of just how ridiculous you’re being. At one point you pick up a wooden pallet. From the player’s point of view, it’s a collectable and you want to get the trophy for finding all of them. From the nameless character’s point of view, you are now carrying a pointless wooden structure around on your back. It’s no wonder the descriptions gently jeer at you.

Yet Maize isn’t all about pointing and laughing at you. At times it comes across as a game that wants you to feel at ease. A big part of the gameplay is its puzzles, which can be the thorn in the side of an otherwise rewarding game. Frustration can mount up inside you if it takes a tad too long to solve a key brain-teaser. I’m not a fan of the fiendishly difficult, comb-the-whole-map endeavours that require you to combine five different objects to create one item and then have you combine it with another one. Maize isn’t like that at all. Helpfully, each pick-up-able item is highlighted. The puzzles’ simplicity makes you feel like you’re taking an amble through a slightly surreal dream, as the solutions are mostly common sense. Finding the components to fool a facial recognition scanner just encourage you to explore more rather than making you feel like you’re backtracking repeatedly. The mini-games peppered throughout the story keep gameplay interesting, not least because occasionally you get some live commentary from your companion. It’s not a cob of corn or another talking grain. It’s a grumpy Russian teddy bear named Vladdy. Vladdy has a mechanical arm attached to his back. He also has a bit of a mean streak, and like the item descriptions, he won’t hold back when it comes to telling you just how stupid you are. Weirdly enough, I grew quite fond of his pessimistic, sarcastic remarks.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to feel immersed in Maize. Beautiful dream-like environments surround you no matter where you turn, saturated with colour and character. Even at the end I still felt like part of its world, despite the fact I was in tears of laughter in an 'am I a bad person for laughing at this?' kind of way. The perfect game for a lazy Sunday afternoon, Maize is incredibly easy to play and just as hard to forget. You won’t look at sweetcorn the same way ever again.

You Should Be Playing celebrates innovative, unexpected games that belong on your radar, with a new game every Monday at 0900 PST / 1700 GMT. Follow @gamesradar on Twitter for updates.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi, I'm Zoe! When I'm not gushing over Bioshock or playing Dungeons & Dragons you'll find me trying to unearth another ring to add to my knuckleduster-worthy collection.
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