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Maquette (Gaming)

by Cody Miller @, Music of the Spheres - Never Forgot, Thursday, March 04, 2021, 19:53 (46 days ago)
edited by Cody Miller, Thursday, March 04, 2021, 19:56

Maquette was disappointing. First of all, it is not really that much of a puzzle game. It's half walking sim, half puzzles. And neither elements are really super great.

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The game is short, and the puzzle mechanics pretty underdeveloped. The witness took me a couple months. Baba is You almost a year. Maquette? Not even a single day. I feel like for a good puzzle game what you want is a simple idea or hook, that just end up spiraling in terms of application and complexity. The Witness' lines as a concept are not complicated, but you get so much milage from them and their interaction with the environment. Similarly pushing the tiles to write the Rules in Baba is you is very simple, but almost unfathomably complex in the types of interactions and puzzles you can make.

So what's Maquette's hook? You're in a recursive world. There's a little model of the world at the center of the level, which has a copy inside of it, down to infinity. But it goes both ways, look out and you see that you're in a copy within a larger world, that is itself inside an even larger one. Basically an endless string nested inside each other infinitely. The main mechanic involves passing objects between the recursions. So if you drop something inside the model, a larger version will appear wherever you put it. Put a doll in a dollhouse and the doll is small to you, but within the dollhouse it's full sized. Pull an object out of the model, and it shrinks.

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The problem is, that's kind of all there is to it. You basically have two options: put an object into the model to make it bigger, or pull it out to make it smaller. Then place it where you need to to move on. While the mechanic seems cool, it's actually not super flexible. The game sometimes plays with the size differences (features on the object may suddenly become important when they are big, but not when they are small, etc), but in reality when you get an object it's just like, ok, where do I put it, and do I have to make it bigger or smaller?

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By the end the game starts to flirt with bigger ideas, such as the model resting in a different orientation rather than flat in each recursion, but only the surface is scratched. Normally I don't mind when games are short, but this game is too short. The main puzzle mechanic is criminally under explored. Whether due to creativity or lack of complexity I don't know, but the game never really blows your mind or pushes you very hard.

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Object manipulation is itself horrendous. The controls are bad. Rather than doing the sensible thing of giving you complete freedom to rotate and position the object in a transparent representation that indicates if it can or cannot be placed where it is, the game leaves the object solid, and takes control of your camera. At times, it can be very hard to look around, and even harder to orient the object. This is inexcusable.

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I also feel like the game is fudging and faking the sizes of objects as they pass through the recursions, scaling up or shrinking down by amounts differing from what they would in actuality.

The walking simulator part is not so great either. We go through the story of a couple who end up breaking up. It feels pointless because there's really no exploration as to why it happened, or any kind of deeper emotional examination. It's just kind of a pointless story.

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The game also runs pretty badly on the PS4. Even though similarly graphically to the witness, the game chugs, stutters, and sometimes freezes for a second or two. I'm sure on PS5 or PC it plays great. The game also has high input delay. Not as bad as Outer Wilds, but close. Thankfully there is never any precision required since there is no action.

So yeah. Easy puzzles, pointless story, and wildy under explored mechanics.

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