I’ve been itching for a pure puzzle experience for a few months now, and ever since this new game from Annapurna Interactive grabbed my attention with its Inception-like design approach and relationship-focused story, I thought it’d be too good an opportunity to pass up. Described as a “first-person recursive puzzle game”, Maquette focuses on the breakdown of a romantic relationship, slowly revealing bits and pieces of the two leads, Kenzie and Michael’s turbulent past.
Playing Out A Relationship
Playing as Kenzie, the landscapes around the titular Maquette begin to twist and morph into pivotal locations that the couple visited in their relationship, as you begin to solve this game’s unique take on physics-based, trial and error type puzzles.
I’m a big fan of Maquette’s puzzle approach here. How it works is that certain objects can be collected and brought to a smaller model of the game’s world map, and either be scaled up or down in size depending on the needs of the player. So for instance, early on in the game, Kenzie will receive a regular-sized key to open up a locked door, but instead of just throwing it away, you can instead upscale that same key and use it as a makeshift bridge of sorts to cross a gap that’s too far to jump.
It takes a moment to sink in, but once you get the hang of it, the whole concept ends up working exceptionally well.
It takes a moment to sink in, but once you get the hang of it, the whole concept ends up working exceptionally well. It consistently forces you to think in size, rather than just simply finding the appropriate object for the solution. There is a bit of jank when it comes to physically inserting or rotating objects because some of the upscaled models can be caught on all sorts of geometry, but it’s nothing too irritating.
Maquette’s Troubling Issues
The puzzles themselves offer up quite a bit of variety in their execution and definitely compel you to think in more of an abstract manner. That being said, some of the brain-teasers will make you say “wow, that was the solution?” But those issues are few and far between. What did start to annoy me was that the devs opted to not include a sprint button. And when a few of the puzzles require walking large distances to test out or retry certain solutions… That can get frustrating, fast!
Some of the brain-teasers will make you say “wow, that was the solution?” But those issues are few and far between.
Some of the steps required to complete a few of these conundrums just weren’t conveyed properly either. There’s a certain flow and feel to this game’s formula, so when Maquette starts to break that rhythm, it becomes really noticeable. You’ll know what I mean when you see ’em.
Also, since everything’s entirely focused on completing one objective after another, after another, Maquette would come across as a lot more interesting if the game took its proverbial foot off the accelerator, every once in a while.
One chapter, in particular, has Kenzie and Michael reminiscing on a time they visited a county fair. You know with the usual street vendors and showground tents that are synonymous with these types of events. The thing is that it just seems like such a HUGE missed opportunity to not throw in a couple of minigames or… something at the very least to help change up the formula. Since this game is only about 4-5 hours long – well, could be longer if you suck at puzzle games like me – this lack of gameplay diversity honestly seems like a massive letdown in the grand scheme of things.
A similar problem lies with the story too. As this game is quite short, there’s sadly not enough time to flesh out these characters and build a meaningful narrative that leaves a lasting impact. Before I could become emotionally invested in this pair, Maquette was already in its closing chapters. I’ll admit the complication of the story does seem intriguing at first, though once you start to realise that it happens more than halfway into the game, you’ll already be long checked out by then.
Before I could become emotionally invested in this pair, Maquette was already in its closing chapters.
It’s even more disappointing that the voice actors for Kenzie and Michael, Bryce Dallas Howard and Seth Gabel who are married in real life put on such a convincing performance for a story that’s pretty much already over before it ever truly began.
The Indie Sounds of Maquette
I will however, hand out some to praise to the licensed music though because it actually fits the setting of this game to a T. Maquette has a very indie, 500 Days of Summer feel to it and that’s exactly what the soundtrack provides. On the other hand, I must say that I did find it kinda weird how the music will suddenly stop playing after two minutes or so, without looping. Then you’re basically just left with Kenzie’s footsteps and some very awkward, atmosphere synths to fill out the ambience. What’s up with that?
Should Maquette be in your shopping cart right now? Well, if you’re looking for a solid, unique take on a puzzle game with an enjoyable soundtrack that doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, then sure. Especially since it’s not a full-priced game. All things considered, don’t expect the story to grab you in the slightest, this narrative is as bare-bones as it gets. You’re probably better off watching The Kissing Booth on Netflix, because Maquette makes it look like Shakespeare in comparison.
Maquette brings a surprisingly unique spin on the pure puzzle genre. Being Graceful Decay’s debut release, they certainly know how to construct clever brain-teasers and conjure up intrigue with Maquette’s interesting design. However, if you’re playing solely for the story, you’ll undoubtedly be more than disappointed.
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