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Maquette is a beautiful puzzler where small changes have massive consequences

A maquette, Wikipedia tells me, is a “scale model or rough draft of an unfinished sculpture”. Maquette is also a beautiful new game from Graceful Decay and publishers Annapurna. Fittingly, those two definitions aren’t as separate as they might seem. Releasing sometime later this year, Maquette is a recursive first-person puzzle box about models within models, where small-scale adjustments can have a massive impact on the world at large.

If you have to be trapped in a nightmare landscape of worlds-within-worlds-within-worlds, those worlds should, at the very leas, be nice to look at. Oh, they are? Marvelous!

Like last year’s Superliminal, Maquette hails from that particular vintage of indie games arriving the wake of Portal 2 that were really, really into perspective-based puzzling. There’s even some crunchy, low-framerate footage of it from GDC’s Experimental Gameplay Sessions back in 2011 (it’s the first game in the line-up – scrub to 4:00 for Maquette).

But where Superliminal scaled objects against the world, Maquette’s worlds scale dramatically within themselves. Each level is a multidimensional diorama. Within the scene you’re standing in is a smaller copy of the environment – likewise, your own world is engulfed by a colossal replica of the environment. What happens in one “layer” of the world happens in all three, and objects can be picked up and dropped between layers. Need to cross a gap? How about lifting a key in your world and plopping it onto the tiny diorama for a makeshift bridge.

It’s a neat gimmick. Returning to Superliminal, though, we know a fantastic gimmick can’t carry a game alone – something Sin found out in her review. She was impressed by all the neat visual tricks, but its puzzles were disappointingly straightforward, with very little experimentation or tinkering to be done. Hopefully, Maquette can offer more perplexing puzzling with its recursive worlds.

I’m not really taken with what I’m seeing of the story, either. Well, hearing, at least. While you’re prancing around these beautiful toy-like environments, disembodied Millenials are flirting in a coffee shop and talking about starting a book club. Oh, the fantastical escapism of games!

Maybe that’s being harsh. Fortunately, Maquette has plenty of time to win me over. Graceful Decay haven’t yet listed a release date, but it’ll likely hit Steam sometime this year.

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Natalie Clayton

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Writes news when everyone else is asleep, sometimes

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