Developer – Graceful Decay
Publisher – Annapurna Interactive
Platform(s) – PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC
MSRP – $19.99
Release Date – March 2, 2021
Disclaimer: Review Copy was Kindly Provided for this Review
When a lot of people saw Maquette for the first time, they probably had the same impression that I had, this is similar to Superliminal. Superliminal released in 2019 and many might think that Maquette took inspiration from it, although from what I understand Maquette has been in development long before the release of Superliminal. While both games have a couple of differences to each other, their gameplay tone is virtually identical.
Maquette is the debut game of developer, Graceful Deacy, a smaller studio under Annapurna Interactive. I don’t usually play many puzzle-based games, but when I saw Maquette for the first time I had to check it out. The atmosphere immediately piqued my interest and the fact that it seemed a lot more story-driven than other puzzle games didn’t hurt.
Maquette is set in a recursive world where your actions are imitated between a small area and a large area with the exact same layout. This recursive world sets the stage for the love story of Kenzie and Michael. The more you advance throughout the world, the more you learn of their relationship.
To advance through the world, you are devoted to completing tasks that Maquette is based around with puzzles. The puzzles will become more complex in difficulty and scale as you progress.
Brief overview out of the way, let’s begin with the actual narrative of Maquette. As mentioned earlier, you experience the love story of Kenzie and Michael. These two are voiced by real-life couple, Seth Gabel and Bryce Dallas Howard who have starred in shows such as Salem and The Mandalorian.
You are told their story through dialogue from Kenzie and Michael that is said when important moments take place. There’s also text that will appear on-screen to add extra context that you won’t get through dialogue from Kenzie and Michael.
I won’t spoil anything major but I will say that I did enjoy the narrative for what it was although I found it a bit predictable in terms of how you expect things to go. Predictably isn’t always bad as long as the execution itself is done the right way and I feel Maquette does it to an extent where they succeed in what they’re trying to accomplish.
At the same time, I really wish some of the dialogue wasn’t as cheesy as it was. I think the developers were a bit self-aware of this considering there were a few moments where I felt there were slight cracks about some of the cheesy dialogue. It doesn’t bring the narrative down too much in the slightest but it’s something that I couldn’t help but notice.
I played Maquette on next-gen hardware with the PlayStation 5. For their first game, Graceful Decay made an elegant-looking game. Granted, Maquette is of a much smaller scale than most games but it still looks nice. The game makes small use of the adaptive triggers on the PS5 controller, the DualSense. You’ll feel a bit of tension when you’re moving around objects to complete a puzzle. I’m still very intrigued by what developers can do with these adaptive triggers and I just appreciate that developers are finding a use for this feature in general.
The music in Maquette will get absolutely no complaints or gripes from me. The selection is masterful and by far one of my favorite aspects of this game. Graceful Deacy did an excellent job and made sure to pick music that fit the tone at certain points in the story.
Pieces such as San Franciscan Nights, Tidal Waves, I Think You’re Alright have stayed in my head long after I completed the game and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon.
Now let’s get to that last and most important element of Maquette, the puzzles. To put in perspective how most puzzles in this game will work, I’ll explain in detail an easier puzzle towards the start of the game. There’s a gate with a ticket booth that needs a golden ticket to open. Once you obtain the golden ticket, you’ll then realize that the ticket is too big to fit in the slot. To solve this issue, you’ll have to place the ticket down in the larger area, and since this world imitates your every action, you’ll pick up the ticket in the dome inside the smaller area then place it in the golden ticket slot. It sounds confusing but it’s relatively easy to figure out once you delve in.
At the start of the game, the puzzles weren’t my cup of tea, they felt way too simplistic and identical. It’s only when I got further into Maquette where things started to click for me. Puzzles started to feel much more different than the ones I would complete beforehand.
There’s a bit of backtracking which I don’t like doing, but I’m glad it at least was kept to a level where it didn’t become a major annoyance. Towards the end of the game, as the world gets bigger, you’ll get smaller. This means if you end up doing a puzzle wrong, it takes a while to get back to where you need to be to try another way to complete it. It ruins the flow to an extent, it’s a nitpick albeit but it was still a minor annoyance to me.
To put it shortly, the puzzles in Maquette can be a mixed bag. It’s not like any of them are particularly bad, it’s just that a handful of things about the puzzles themselves and elements surrounding them leave a bit to be desired.
I don’t regret sitting down to partake in Maquette in the slightest. It’s best to keep in mind that the game isn’t the longest. How long it takes you to complete Maquette depends on how fast you solve the puzzles, so everyone will have a varying experience in that regard. The outreach that this game has greatly improved with it being a PlayStation Plus game on PS5 for the month of March.
For a debut game from Graceful Decay, they succeeded in terms of accomplishing their vision. It’s not a masterpiece for me personally, but it has its moments. Maquette is a good debut game for a studio that I think has tons of potential. It has its up and downs, but I see that the passion and effort are there.
Rating - 7.5/10