In this day and age, it seems like quite a daunting idea to release a game that is both short and lacking in deep replayability, but that's precisely what Maquette is. Now, before alarm bells start firing off in your head, that doesn't mean this is a bad game at all. What it brings to the table is a delightful first-person puzzler that is built around a narrative telling the tale of a modern love story, and considering you can complete the full campaign in an evening, it's not a bad way to spend your time.
Developed by Graceful Decay, the storyline of Maquette shows how the couple Kenzie and Michael met and fell in love and proceeded to fall apart, and it does so by letting you relive certain important events in their lives by completing strange physics-based puzzles. The odd part is that you never actually see either of the two, their tale is told solely through visual aids and conversation, but considering the roles of the couple are played by Hollywood stars and actual couple Bryce Dallas Howard and Seth Gabel, you can really feel their connection.
At its core, Maquette is a really simple game to pick up and play, and all you really need to know how to do is use its mind-bending physics system. This mechanic basically allows certain objects to be changed in size, drastically, and that whole feature is essentially the entire game's puzzling mechanics in a nutshell. You'll find specific objects that can be grabbed and moved around, and using a strange miniature replica of the world you exist in, you can make those objects bigger and smaller to solve a variety of problems.
For example, there was one puzzle that really stumped us. We needed to get into a floating house with a locked door, but had no way to cover the gap to where it rested. We had a key that would open the lock, and if we grew it in size, could be used as a bridge to cover the gap. But, if we used it as a bridge we wouldn't be able to open the lock - at least that was the initial thought. The solution involved us shrinking the key to an even smaller size, opening the door in the miniature model of the playable world, before making the key massive again to be able to bridge the gap. In general, that's how a lot of Maquette's puzzling works, and whilst it is quite ingenious, it doesn't exactly look to differ from itself.
This is the biggest issue with the puzzles in the game. You approach a new one with a little bit of awe, spend a few minutes completely bewildered with its solution, before eventually figuring it out and doing pretty much the same thing all over again. There isn't all that much variance in what's on offer.
Aside from its physics-based puzzling system and its narrative, Maquette also offers a great soundtrack, and genuinely looks incredible. It's worlds are entirely bizarre, but they have so much charm and colour, or are built in such an unusual way that it's hard not to find them pleasing at pretty much every turn. The soundtrack is generally quite ambient, and serves as a by-product to the wider game, but there are times when an indie song, complete with lyrics and music is blasted out to accentuate the gameplay, and during those times Maquette is at its best.
The biggest issue with Maquette though is how it's pretty much a walking simulator. Sure the world is pretty and eye-catching and the narrative is genuinely interesting, but for the most part you will just walk between locations to complete the similar puzzles using the same sorts of mechanics. It can become a little drab and it's only when something new, such as some more dialogue, or a song pops up is your attention once again grabbed.
The instances when you have to abuse the size-shifting puzzles yourself only work to further elevate this issue, because as you get smaller, the distance you have to walk becomes much longer, and for the most part the world isn't very interesting at a miniature level. Don't get me wrong, shrinking down to figure out a puzzle is pretty cool - the first few times - but the more you have to aimlessly wander, the less engaging the game becomes. If this was a 15-hour long game this would become a massive issue, but since Maquette is a small package, it doesn't quite reach the point of being a real deal-breaker.
For what it's worth, you won't exactly go wrong spending an evening or an afternoon playing Maquette. This short indie game is packed with charm and it looks incredible, and provided you can overlook the fact that the puzzles aren't exactly ingenious past the first few, it will keep you entertained. Graceful Decay has shown they can make interesting games with Maquette, and now I'm excited to see what the future holds for this talented developer.
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