Here’s what I like about ‘Man In A Maze’: it takes what could’ve been a vanilla concept (you are a man in a maze. Get out of the maze), and tweaks it with a theme that adds a bit of personality (you are a man in a maze as part of a game show. Get out of the maze). You control Chuck; an average, Permanently-smiling American citizen picked to take part in this week’s show. Flanked by nameless glamour model and cheesy big-haired presenter, you enter a series of mazes with TV cameras looking on, with the aim of collecting enough gems for prizes, and avoiding the killer robots, trap doors and electrified floors. A little bit more treacherous than ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ then.
Here’s what I don’t like about ‘Man In A Maze’: The controls. Sure enough there are a few good options here which give you multiple ways to move Chuck around and throw his yellow ball as a means of defense, but this seems too complex for it’s own good. Casual games like this usually just give you a thumbstick and one button and tell you to get on with it. Another thing is that moving Chuck around isn’t the most responsive. It always seems as if he’s lagging a step behind.
He never stops smiling though. Indeed his enthusiastic, almost manic beam is one of the game’s biggest bits of humour. No matter what happens to him – being blasted by a plasma cannon, or electrified by a roaming robot – that rictus grin is permanently attached. The catchpenny presenter who keeps sending him into the death-trap rewards him with branded gifts such a steak knives and mugs for risking his life to collect tokens. All while the nameless glamour model slinks around in the background. It’s an effective send-up of gameshow culture.
Controls aside, it’s actually an enjoyable romp as you figure out the best way round each maze, trying to avoid the increasingly difficult and sadistic obstacles with only a bouncy ball (which can at least be upgraded) to aid you. It’s about timing, and not a small bit of luck too.
Graphically it’s a good looker, and animation is smooth as you can get for a top-down game. You almost wish the perspective would be given a couple more D’s to show off. Character models are intentionally hilarious between levels, and transition animations from one part of the game to another are slick. An ironic easy listening jingle plays in the background as you try to not get electrocuted.
If you can get the hang of the slightly laggy controls, you’ll have a fun time here. Even if there were no prizes on offer, who wouldn’t want to risk getting blown up, electrocuted or falling to their death for 15 minutes of fame? The fact that there are steak knives on offer only makes it sweeter. Keep smiling Chuck.
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