Can a video game make you cry? It’s cliche as old as time. I think it was Steven Spielberg who talked about it in the late 90’s. Infamous game industry charlatan Peter Molyneux was obsessed with the concept around the same time. It was discussed so much back then, that the discourse itself made me want to cry.
Surely people cried when Aeris died in Final Fantasy VII, others might have cried when Mario found out that the princess was in another castle. All that is to say that everyone has different emotional responses to works of art, and mine is comparable to that of an unfazed cow.
I’m not sure if cows can feel emotions at all, but I am sure that a piece of media never made me cry. That’s not a brag, I wish I was the type to ball my eyes out at a gorgeous movie or a heart wrenching video game, but that’s just not me. I didn’t well up during The Last of Us and I didn’t weep at the end of Titanic. Very cool and masculine, I know.
Playing Maquette, however, made me a little teary eyed.
Its developers describe Maquette as a ‘first-person recursive puzzle game’, which is technically correct but there’s a lot more to it than that.
The game tells the story of a relationship that (spoiler, sorry) eventually goes stale. It’s voice-acted by Bryce Dallas Howard (The Mandalorian) and her real-life husband Seth Gabel (Nip/Tuck), and it takes the player on a journey from the very start of the fling to its depressing end.
The story unfolds as you complete puzzles that are built around the game’s recursive setup. It’s a bit hard to describe, but you basically have to manipulate objects in different sized copies of the world you’re in.
At the start of the game you encounter a maquette that’s an exact replica of the bigger environment you walk around in. You pick up a tiny little cube outside the maquette and you place it inside the miniature, where it forms a huge box that you can then use to traverse a gap.
The concept starts off pretty straightforward, but as you get deeper into the game you’ll have to wrack your brain on a bunch of complicated and beautifully crafted challenges.
The puzzle design in Maquette is top-notch and I had a lot of fun messing around to come up with a solution. Sometimes the controls and the mechanics were a bit finicky, but with some patience you’ll probably get through the whole thing without much frustration.
You don’t often see games tackling real, human stories about ‘mundane’ stuff like relationships, so it was refreshing to see Maquette tackle the subject. Both the writing and the voice acting are top-notch and the subject matter blends with the gameplay way better than you’d expect.
Maquette is out today for PC, PS4, and PS5. PlayStation Plus members get it for free as part of their subscription, others will have to pay $19.99. If you’re in the market for a well-designed puzzle game that tugs at the heartstrings, it’s well worth it.