Treefall Studios got off to a rough start with their first game, The Letter. It scored a 14 out of 100 on Metacritic. But it is time for the indie studio to have a second chance. Maze is their latest release on the Wii U eShop.
In short, the game is all about mazes. You start at a certain position in a maze where you need to find the 10 hidden coins in order to reach the exit. Be hit once or fall into a trap and the level restarts.
The controls are simple. You move with the L stick, rotate the camera with R stick and jump with the B or ZR buttons. Exactly what you’d expect from a run-of-the-mill platformer.
There are plenty of levels for the price of the game. It includes 24 mazes divided into four worlds plus a final maze at the end. During the first world and part of the second one, Maze really gave a bad first impression. It offered a repetitive and basic level design with a lack of theme variation. It felt cheap.
Worlds two and three were better. They have a larger variation of themes (and songs). Level design is still basic in these stages, but vastly improved over the first world. It presented a few original ideas but it still gave me a simple experience.
Using the same theme for over 10 mazes barely using gameplay elements like the switches, the enemies or the moving platforms. I found that Maze has a weird lack of replay value. There is an arcade mode, but it is sorely lacking in content.
Once you beat the third world you have access to the bonus world. It includes five stages featuring five different games: Blok Drop U from RCMADIAX, Ping 1.5+ from NAMI TENTOU MUSHI and the other three are TreeFall Studios’ previous games: The Gem Collector, Journey of a Special Average Balloon and The Letter.
I was expecting the final maze to be a challenge using all the experience I got during the whole game. But I got really disappointed when it resulted to be a giant empty maze with just the ten coins hidden. It took me 80 minutes to complete. Instead of being challenging it was frustrating and boring.
The soundtrack is similarly repetitive. The best melodies are barely used, and most of the songs feel like the incorrect instruments are used. Graphically, you can find models that are nicely done when another looks like a kid’s drawing that made you think if presets were actually used for the game, and some level backgrounds looks like they were made on Microsoft Paint.
Aside from the story mode, they’re another two modes you can try: multiplayer and arcade. In the arcade mode, you have to collect the twenty coins before the time runs out in order to beat the level. Your score is based in that time. In this mode, there are only three levels. Expanding this to all the maps from the story mode would have helped replay value.
The timer is really demanding to the point where you will need to be almost perfect to beat the level. The rules never explain to you that you also need to reach the finish line before the time runs out (which says only to collect the coins). I also experienced a glitch that made me unable to pick up the coins.
The multiplayer mode also presents three levels, where in this case it’s a race between two players (one with the Wii U Gamepad and the other with the Wii U Pro Controller). It’s really simple but at least there’s a twist: you can find an item that places the finish zone to a random location of the map, which can be fair or unfair depending on the luck of each player.
The game is full of technical problems. Mostly in the first world, if you touch the wall you will slow down, making it easy to fall down pits. Jumping from moving platforms can be pretty tricky. You can jump pretty far or you can barely move in the air if you are touching a wall.
The presentation is affected by small flaws. There is no pause menu The main menu can only be controlled with the GamePad, where if you press A with the intention to try skip the title introduction you can accidentally start a new save, losing your progress. The game is full of loading screens. Even the game over screen has it’s own loading screen.
Despite being an interesting idea, Maze falls really hard on its poor execution: a boring experience during the first half of the game, the good ideas are hardly used in comparison with the bad ones and there are many flaws in the package as well. I don’t say it’s a bad option for two dollars, and it’s a lot better than The Letter, but it gives a feel of an unfinished game, or at least on its presentation.