A Calming Puzzle Game With An Interesting StoryIn “Maquette” the player moves through several dreamlike diorama settings, which are contained within larger exact copies of themselves.
In recent years, many puzzle games have taken on the form of surreal semi-open world settings in which the player solves increasingly challenging puzzles to unlock more of the area around them. There are typically minimal amounts of audio, mostly consisting of diegetic ambiance such as footsteps, but very rarely any music. The environment creates a setting of mystery and discovery, and it can easily draw the player in.
“Maquette” is a new game in this sub-genre, and like other games from which it draws inspiration, there is one central mechanic from which every puzzle in the game and the exploration of the world is derived.
The player moves through several dreamlike diorama settings, which are contained within larger exact copies of themselves. When certain objects are picked up and dropped, larger and smaller replicas of those objects will mimic their movements in their respective appropriately sized dioramas, revealing new paths and providing solutions to puzzles. If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is.
While the initial concept is simple enough to catch onto once the game begins, it is not long before somewhat jarring leaps in logic are required to solve certain puzzles. The satisfaction that comes from solving one puzzle quickly disappears when you realize that you have no clue how to solve the next one. As the player solves the puzzles and moves forward, you learn the story of a couple who fell in love and drifted apart, and the settings you explore reflect the state of their relationship.
Although I tried very hard to enjoy this game, and there was certainly something soothing about the serenity of the world and the satisfaction of manipulating objects at the massive scale presented, but getting stuck for an embarrassingly long time in some places and being pulled out of the world by a story I often didn’t quite care for made the game only passable in the end. I might have preferred the game without the story, or at least with voice actors of equivalent talents (the woman is voiced by actress Bryce Dallas Howard while the man has somewhat of a grating, uncomfortable voice), but the game can still be completed in one sitting, so it isn’t impossible to get through.
This game isn’t for everyone, but people looking for a calming world and a challenging experience might enjoy it.