First-person puzzle games can be difficult to make stand out, as they tend to feel similar to one another. Not only does Maquette offer a compelling story, but its puzzles are smart and unique. There are a few moments where Maquette becomes frustrating, but it’s hard to say whether that’s the fault of the game or the emotions it makes players feel.
Maquette is a modern-day love story that follows the artistic and charming couple of Kenzie and Michael. From the start of their blossoming relationship to their bittersweet end, players are told a heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and acceptance. The players will navigate Kenzie’s memories of her and Michael’s relationship and will be faced with mind-bending puzzles in order to piece their story together.
Kenzie and Michael are voice-acted by Bryce Dallas Howard and Seth Gabel, and that talent helps elevate Maquette as a whole. Their performances are amazing and make for a believable love story, which is important when the characters themselves are never actually on screen. Maquette’s sound design is fantastic and is accompanied by an amazing soundtrack that matches the tone of each sequence. Pairing Maquette’s beautiful audio with its stunning visuals makes for a memorable experience.
Speaking of visuals, Maquette’s atmospheric locations are fascinating from the pink and gold circus bathed in a champagne sunset to the decrepit remains of the maquette floating above an endless void. The game’s atmosphere changes with the tone of the story, and as players draw closer to the end their surrounding environments will begin to crumble allowing players to see where the story is headed.
At its core, Maquette is a puzzle game and it introduces unique mechanics that focus on perspective. Players are set in a dome surrounded by four different environments. In the center of the dome is a one-to-one diorama of the dome and the environments. Players can place items inside the diorama to traverse levels or to change their size. As the game progresses, the puzzles become more challenging, and players are forces to think of the bigger (or smaller) picture.
Maquette’s levels and puzzles are smartly designed for the most part. An unassuming rake later becomes a platforming tool, or a stack of books turns into a step ladder. When finding a solution to a more troublesome puzzle, the game rewards the player with a sense of accomplishment and additional information about Kenzie and Michael. However, there are some puzzles that lead to frustration, and the solutions that can be found feel like the unintended ones. These puzzles are few in number, but they do bring the game’s story to a halt and don’t feel as rewarding when overcome.
Maquette is an important piece of art because it tells a familiar story that many people have been a part of. It’s deeper than just Kenzie and Michael’s own personal experiences – it details the importance of communication in relationships and that it’s okay to let go of the relationships players no longer have. Every inch of the world Maquette is set in tells a story and properly visualizes the emotions that its characters are feeling.
That being said, Maquette is a puzzle game with a lot of silent walking, self-reflection, and a deep storyline. There’s no action and its platforming doesn’t compare to the mobility of Super Mario or other engaging platformers. Maquette isn’t a game for everyone, but it could be an essential game for many. Maquette chooses to be uncompromising in its vision and message, and it challenges players both mentally and emotionally as a result, with a suitable payoff waiting for those willing to sink in the hours to get there.
Maquette launches on PS4, PS5, and PC on March 2, 2021. Screen Rant was provided a digital PS5 code for the purpose of this review.