Usually, I don’t become very invested in puzzle games. I’d attempt and complete a few of them, hit a wall, become annoyed and give up. This was not my experience with Maquette. I’d only heard of Maquette a few days before release and it has quickly become one of my favourite games so far this year.
Maquette is a first-person puzzle adventure that takes you through the relationship of Michael and Kenzie. Through the narrative alone, you’re thrown into the surroundings of what feels like a quiet dream. It is here that you’re treated to pieces of text that act as the disjointed thoughts of the dreamer. With this, you’ll also see memories conveyed through artworks that are drawn in real-time. These two elements come together to create a beautiful, storybook-like interpretation of memories. Given that these visual sequences are used to accompany dialogue, I found that it allowed me to really hear their feelings through their voices and not be as distracted as if it were a cut-scene. These visual elements did a terrific job in matching the aesthetic of the game as a whole.
The performances by Bryce Dallas Howard (Kenzie) and Seth Gabel (Michael) carry the story in such an honest way. They give the characters an authentic believability as people that continually kept me interested in their journey. I thoroughly enjoyed the lengths the developers went to in order to bring the narrative to life.
The core mechanic that the game revolves around is the ability to change the size of particular objects as well as yourself. This is done by visiting and placing objects into different layers of the Maquette, a large, dome-like structure housing each level. It’s easier to think of it as a large nesting doll, where smaller versions of the Maquette exist within one another. Any object placed inside the confines of the Maquette will exist simultaneously at every level of scale. It’s then your job to figure out at which size of object and area the answer may lie. It may sound somewhat confusing but I assure you, it makes sense when playing and it’s quite fascinating to see in real-time. The only drawback I found in the gameplay is that the movement, particularly jumping, can feel a little clunky at times. While this hindered me every now and then, it was never majorly immersion-breaking and I was always able to properly progress forward.
The puzzles themselves are very clever. The game will sometimes present you with a simple situation which turns out to be just as simple to solve. Other times, the problem will encourage more of an outside-the-box approach. The game balances this out well and always felt smooth from a progression standpoint. The puzzles never felt impossible and were often very satisfying to solve.
The art style, much like the puzzles, is quite simple at first glance. Bright colours and clear, defined shapes would describe most of what’s to be seen in the game. The best part is that each object and structure has been cleverly designed to appear at any scale without losing any distinguishing details. The power of the PS5 is on clear display here to keep everything rendered correctly at all times as well as keeping it smooth. This all proves to be incredibly important and the dependence on the visuals for the overall game cannot be understated.
For me, the soundtrack is what ties the entire thing together. The music overall couldn’t be more relaxing. I like to think it’s intended to be that way to maybe help alleviate any frustration when getting stuck. You’ll hear plenty of the piano as well as a number of full length songs that act as way to break up the story and convey any strong emotions the characters are feeling. The music is one of Maquette’s strongest and most immersive aspects and kept me wholly engaged throughout.
This game was a wonderful surprise for me this year. It felt great to play a puzzle game that was fun, inventive, emotive and struck the perfect balance between challenging and simple. If you’re looking for a way to exercise your mind for a little while or want to experience a beautifully told story, then look no further than Maquette.