Overall Score 54%
When I was little I encountered a number of plasticy novelties where the aim was to get a ball (or, in one case, a blob of mercury) from one end of a maze to another. As the toy was sealed, the only way to manipulate the ball was by tilting the toy and letting gravity guide the ball. As well as awkward turns there were traps - holes that your ball would fall in and thus force you to start again.
Amaze is a computerised version of that toy, and being virtual it allows one to face far more lethal hazards than a mere hole in the floor. Fire traps, electrical barriers, spikes, lava pits and more are all too happy to turn your little ball into a mere memory. Your aim is simple - get the ball from the start of the maze to the end, collecting packages along the way for bonuses or for useful items such as keys.
Controls are dual - either use the arrow keys or the mouse to tilt the board. The mouse is by far the more effective of the options, allowing fine control or sudden movement at any time and also allowing you to tilt on both axes at once. Everything else is about timing, reflexes and persistence.
Graphically, Amaze is not overly impressive. Brown is the prime colour of choice. During play the screen is rather busy - I often had trouble finding the ball when starting out and some of the traps are hard to spot. Graphical problems on the slightly dated desktop machine made packages mere shadows and some traps utterly invisible! The destination is indicated by a big bouncing arrow - in the same colour/texture as the walls. Sound consisted of a single repeating backing track, from starting the game up to quitting it, with a length of about half a minute; sound effects number precisely three (I counted the files). It didn't take long until the sound was muted.
Playability is (as is normal for the plastic games of this type!) infuriating. Guiding your ball around the maze is made tricky by the high inertia and rather bouncy nature of the ball itself and the corresponding delay between tilt and response. Shortly before going to press a new version of Amaze has been released in which you can adjust various ball aspects, so hopefully this will make it possible to tailor gameplay to your liking.
The main problem with the playability is that, first of all, if you lose a life you start the maze again. Any gifts or items you have collected will remain collected but you will still need to traverse all those obstacles once more, with one slip reversing all your hard work. And lives are limited. You can get around this, however, by going back to the menu and saving your game before any tricky parts, then reloading until you succeed. Since there is no limit on saving or loading games you can theoretically complete the entire game this way. On balance, I'd have liked an option to choose individual mazes (a "practice" mode?) rather than have to play them all in sequence.
Amaze's longevity was in some grave doubt before news of the latest version reached my inbox. Among the late additions is a level editor, allowing you to create your own sequences of levels, and the option to import other groups of levels as well (note that you can only play the standard levels in the demo). The option to adjust the settings will likewise improve longevity a little.
Overall I found Amaze to be a nice concept but one lacking a vast range of scope. The limited sound, eye-straining graphics and playability balancing all detract considerably from a fun little game. Given the improvements already being added to Amaze, I'm hopeful that these issues will soon be addressed.
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