Just a look at the amazement of last year reveal the trailer for Model and I was fascinated. Its recursive take on a first-person puzzle is immediately exciting – and that says a lot about a genre seen. portal cannons, non-Euclidean labyrinths, forced perspective magic, and lots of other weird ideas. But while Maquette has some undeniably clever tricks up her sleeve and is downright mind-blowing to watch throughout, this brief story never quite manages to overcome that initial sense of wonder.
Maquette follows a person revisiting their memories of a past relationship, though doing so in fantasy, metaphorical environments through text written on the walls and the occasional cute conversation voiced by a real Hollywood couple. Bryce Dallas Howard and Seth Gabel. All the while, you’ll progress by solving mostly unrelated puzzles using Maquette’s big hook: a recursive world shrouded in endless identical versions of itself.
Beautiful gameplay screenshots from Maquette
In the center of each chapter’s contained puzzle area is a small model (a mockup, if you will) of the terrain around you. Drop an item – like a key or a bridge – into the model and a scaled version will appear in the same place behind you, but much larger – otherwise, pick something small in the model and suddenly you’ll have a tiny version to use in your full-sized world. It’s an incredibly smart concept, and it’s an absolute joy to play with when you first orient yourself.
Part of that immediate appeal is due to Maquette’s stunning beauty. Its use of bright colors and ornate, distorted architecture is one of the prettiest I’ve seen in a puzzle game. This awe-inspiring aesthetic also extends to its otherworldly particle effects when objects move or move, as well as its top-notch audio design. Dropping a wrench into the model will produce tiny clicking sounds as it bounces, and this is paired with deep metallic clicks behind you from its larger counterpart. Walking through an abstract representation of a memory will be accompanied by the hustle and bustle and realistic sound effects of the real place.
But while its surroundings are amazing both to watch and to listen to, I have also found them strangely inert. There’s essentially nothing to interact with beyond the extremely limited set of puzzle-solving items, and it’s never been rewarding to think outside the box or look at unrelated stuff. singular task to accomplish. The most glaring example of this is when you visit the souvenir of a county fair, which is full of stalls with ring throwing games, target shots and even a giant Ferris wheel … which are all motionless props that you’re just supposed to smile at and walk past. It’s not the biggest disappointment of all time, but it undermines the life that has been imbued in every area and makes the act of solving puzzles and interacting with this world almost entirely disconnected from the story being told. .
Fortunately, the puzzles themselves can be a lot of fun to solve, if not as exciting as I hoped Maquette’s recursive concept could be. There are a lot of little tricky fixes to be found that I won’t spoil here, but I especially loved times like the first time you leave your own “model” world and find yourself in the giant version of that. that’s on the outside (although Maquette could seriously use a sprint button to reduce the slow movement of those sections). The following chapters also change the formula in interesting ways which, while generally a little less successful than the central model idea, offers some twists and turns on its own setup.
That said, compared to first person puzzles like Antechamber, Collector’s garden, and Portal, or even less deliberately mind-blowing options like The principle of Talos or The witness, Maquette’s recursive roadblocks are actually quite simple to cross. The best puzzle games don’t just have smart puzzles, they make you feel smart to solve them. Mockup only handles the first part of that in its brief two to three hour playtime, with most of its solutions never really scaling after placing an object or two in the right place and then moving on to the next task (well. than with a novel, size modification steps in between). This meant that understanding them usually made me say “oh” rather than “a-ha!” – a subtle but important distinction when it comes to the mental reward of solving them.
This may in part be due to the fact that, unlike almost all of the games I just listed, Maquette puts more emphasis on its story, sometimes turning more into a ‘walking simulator’ type adventure game. than a puzzle. And while it tells this story pretty well through engaging animation and succinct text, it’s a pretty basic look at the evolution of a relationship that seems largely independent of the magical world in which it’s told, held to. distance from most of what I was doing. mechanically. It’s lovely sometimes, of course, but not enough draw per se – especially when you can just play. Florence, also published by Annapurna Interactive, which is pretty much just a better version of the same story.