A couple of years ago InnerspaceVR released Maskmaker on Steam for the VR audience. Well, last December they made it available to the Oculus community. Do I have what it takes to carve and paint my own masks to complete this intriguing puzzle based adventure? Best raid the man drawer for the necessary tools for the task and I’ll see you on the other side.
Maskmaker – Stanley Ipkiss vs Rocky Dennis, seconds away, round 1.
Maskmaker sticks to the tried and tested formula for controls. I chose to mainly teleport as it’s quicker, but I found myself using normal movement for the more close environments. Every time an object was highlighted I would pick it up and look all around it for clues. This is a puzzle game after all. There is a tutorial to make sure that I know how to do everything, but it is all fairly obvious.
I started in a town and quickly learnt of a mask maker’s apprentice position that was available. I entered an empty shop and after solving a quick puzzle I found myself in an impressive mask making workshop. Once again I was met with a brief tutorial on how to make a mask and how it all worked. The voice that was guiding me was doing a great job, despite sounding like an apathetic old cockney with a cold. This voice would go on to haunt my dreams at night, but worse than that, also the rest of the game. The masks I was creating were giving me access to different dummy bodies across the world. I would wander around the worlds interacting with every contraption to find the components for the increasingly more intricate masks. I do wonder why the mask maker took all the components with him before disappearing.
As I adventured through ice, swamp and mountains to find these exotic components, my vertigo was put to the test a few times, which my legs were not very pleased about, but I survived to bring you this review. I did struggle to get absorbed into the world that had been created, it all seemed a bit lacklustre and obvious. I very much felt like this would have been amazing a few years ago but now it embraces the dizzy heights of mediocre. Having said that, it is a fun little game to play and despite the voice acting, I did enjoy a stroll through the worlds. Well, it was more fun than the washing up.
Maskmaker is very much a game of two halves, mask creation and puzzle solving. Mask creation takes place in the workshop and feels very intuitive. I would have preferred it to be a little more intricate and skilful to feel like I had actually achieved something, not just a simple follow the diagram and you can’t go wrong. The puzzle solving takes place on location in rather blank and meaningless worlds with a very much ‘if it can be interacted with, then interact with it’ feel to it. The apathetic cockney does walk you through the puzzles a little bit too much and really takes the fun out of some of them. The fun stuff seemed to be over too quickly, and not a lot of thinking was required.
I did discover an issue when using the telescope, the screen became very shaky and holding focus on a single object was a lot harder than it should have been. This was only after the first time using it though.
Graphics & Audio
Maskmaker has graphics that do the job. They are not as polished as I would like to see, but the game is at least playable. The animations are smooth although the realism aspect sometimes has to be overlooked. The workshop is well designed and you can get a feel for the atmosphere, but the other locations are somewhat lacking vibrancy and charm.
The audio in Maskmaker fits the bill, noises appear in all the right places to assist in the realism of the game. The background music is unobtrusive and fortunately not ear worm creating. The narration however is like dragging nails down a blackboard. It’s incessant, everything seems to have an associated narration, it’s as if silence can’t be a thing and in effect, it actually ruins a lot of the atmosphere. I understand that games need stories, but at least let the player play catch up and not explain what is coming. Now I love a good surprise in a game so please shut up and let me experience one. I felt like I had politely asked ‘You ok?’ and got an hour’s worth of rambling.
Maskmaker is very much a play it once and archive it experience. A replay of the game would consist of simple puzzles constantly interrupted by irritating cut scenes and narration. With more and more puzzle games coming out Maskmaker will soon be at the back of an old shop gathering dust, its creators mysteriously vanished and awaiting a young apprentice to arrive and finish the job.
Maskmaker is an interesting concept and maybe in the hands of a different creative team, a more pleasurable experience would be had by the player. There is no doubt that Maskmaker does make the most of the interaction possibilities within the VR world and the actual manipulation to complete various tasks is its main strong point. As a first puzzle game, it would appear a lot better, but after a few, it pales in comparison. I hope that the developers can get their teeth into a new project and explore more of the puzzle creation aspect and less time thrusting the story at you. I have awarded Maskmaker a Thumb Culture Silver Award, purely based on the fun that I had in the workshop.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.