Developer: Graceful Decay
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Genre(s): First-person, Puzzle
Platform: PlayStation 5 (also available on PlayStation 4 and PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 02/03/2021
“You cannot change the past, but you can always change your perspective”. It’s a quote that feels fitting for Maquette, both with its gameplay and its narrative. The puzzler from developer Graceful Decay doesn’t just give players a myriad of challenging enigmas to solve that requires them to use different perspectives to alter the objects around them, but it also tells a love story that’s somewhat bittersweet. That’s not a spoiler, by the way, but something that’s addressed in the intro.
It’s all about perspective though, with everything in Maquette a learning experience. It makes for a really good time too, even if some obtuse puzzles and awkward mechanics can cause frustrations.
A heart-breaking tale
Maquette’s story is built around Michael and Kenzie, two young adults who form a relationship after meeting in a coffee shop. Told through beautifully illustrated narrative flashback sequences, the tale tells of their early relationship, how they shared their first kiss, how they met each other’s friends, how they shared each other’s dreams and hopes, and how things eventually fell apart. It’s quite sad really, but again, it’s all about perspective. Whilst things might not have worked out for the couple, learning how they cope with it is almost hopeful. It’s hard to put it in words, but it tied in nicely with all of the puzzling. It’s something I’m sure some players might find relatable too, for better or worse… maybe don’t play the game if you’re having relationship problems, though.
I’ve got to give a shout out to the voice acting, which was believable throughout and strengthened the tale. There’s actually Hollywood talent on board with Bryce Dallas Howard playing the role of Kenzie, so you might recognise her voice if you’ve watched the Jurassic World movies. Either way, both characters had great performances and they helped make the tale all the more emotional.
The gameplay of Maquette is a little bit more complicated to explain. Just about everything in the game is based on size and perspective. You might have been told that size doesn’t matter, but that’s not the case in Maquette… maybe that’s why Michael and Kenzie broke up?
Players will find objects that can be used to interact with the environment or make new pathways to follow. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, at one point you find a model of a bridge, but it’s too small to use. Luckily, the centre of each level has a small diorama-style model of the area you’re in – place the object within it and it’ll appear in your surroundings, albeit in a bigger form. This works both ways, with players able to shrink objects down if they’re clever about it. That’s the crux of the gameplay in Maquette, with everything based around manipulating objects and cleverly finding the spot for them in the environment.
Clever and varied mechanics
It might sound fiendishly complex, but it’s actually really easy to figure out in-game. It’s essentially all about finding the right object, getting it the right size, and then using it in the right place. Some objects have multiple uses too, such as the key which can be used to open doors or alternatively act as a make-shift bridge across a large gap. It’s a clever gameplay mechanic that’s used in a meticulous and varied manner throughout.
No two levels ever feel the same either, with different ideas introduced across the game. There’ll be times when you’re using orbs to open doors, times you’ll shrink yourself down to explore larger environments, and even times when you’ll have to follow small clues to lead your way through a maze-like environment. Maquette keeps things varied, which ensures players won’t tire of its puzzle-orientated formula. The fact that most of the puzzles are rewarding to solve is the cherry on top, with plenty of satisfying ‘eureka!’ moments had as I played through the game. I don’t want to detail anything here because of spoilers but expect some cool ideas.
The minor imperfections of Maquette
That being said, there were a few puzzles that could feel a little too obtuse. I won’t name specifics, but sometimes the solution was a bit cryptic and poorly signposted; I’ll admit that I had to get help to figure a few of them out. Even then, the solution wasn’t always logical, so it does have some imperfections in its puzzle design. The PlayStation 5 Activity Cards certainly came in handy, with each offering help to get through them. It’s a feature that I haven’t taken advantage of much on the console, but its use was well implemented in Maquette.
I’d be remiss not to mention Maquette’s controls, which could be a bit clumsy at times. Navigating environments is fine, but manipulating objects to place them carefully? It can be really awkward to do. In fairness, it isn’t a consistent issue across the board, but expect to have some moments where you can’t quite get an object to place EXACTLY where you want it straight away. It’s a minor flaw in the grand scheme of things, but it is noticeable.
What a wonderful world
Whilst it does have some flaws in its gameplay, there’s no doubting that Maquette looks beautiful. The fantastical environments are oozing in style and vibrancy, whilst the sense of scale brought with the objects you manipulate really makes you feel like you’re a small cog in a massive machine. Add to that an outstanding soundtrack that mixes up soothing ambient pieces with licenced tracks from musicians based in the developer’s San Francisco home, and you’ll quickly find that Maquette is a very well-presented game.
Sure, there are some minor frame rate hitches here and there, but it’s nothing game-breaking.
With its cleverly designed conundrums and wonderful presentation, Maquette is a game puzzle fans won’t want to miss. Sure, some puzzles could be a little obtuse and there were a few hiccups in the gameplay mechanics, but they’re small issues in what is otherwise a memorable (and surprisingly emotional) puzzle-solving experience.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can purchase Maquette on the PlayStation Store here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.