ReviewsReview: Mind Maze

Review: Mind Maze

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With all the modern gadgets and gizmos you’d think we’d never find life tiresome. Entertainment has never been easier to get our hands on and everything is just within grasp. Yet, we are all guilty of allowing ourselves to get bored! When this happens, we turn to tried and tested simple games. Hangman, noughts and crosses, and basic board games all fill the void. I’m sure you’ve experienced the tactical masterpiece known as dots and boxes. If you have, you’ll know how addictive it can be. Mind Maze uses this basic concept to create a fun and competitive strategic title.

Developed and published by Sometimes You, this puzzle strategy game offers a short sharp mind wracking experience. Designed with a futuristic edge, this modern take on a much-loved paper-based game will keep you playing for hours as long as you have a good group of friends. 

Take no prisoners and dominate each match.

A lack of game modes holds Mind Maze back.

Mind Maze has the potential to be played casually when you are tired of other genres. Sadly, however, its lack of game modes and the AI’s bizarre logic prevent it from excelling. There is a main campaign that is split across two chapters and local multiplayer to challenge friends and computer players. Both modes rely heavily on the same mechanics and this stifles the entertainment factor early doors. Playing against AI is unpredictable and fast-paced. It has an air of imbalance because the computer is aware of every available move without thinking.

The game pushes the idea that forcing your opponents into errors is a key tactical approach, and I agree. However, it’s nearly impossible to trick the computer opposition and when you back them in a corner, they react in illogical ways. The aim of the game is to place down walls between dots eventually forming a box. You gain a point for every one you complete and the winner is the person with the highest score. So, therefore it’s obvious that giving away the lowest boxes is what you need to achieve victory. Strangely, the AI doesn’t care and places their walls to give away the maximum amount of squares, when they could easily have offered a minimum return.

This lack of logical prowess impacts the game’s core concept and if there is no tactical element, then there is no point in playing. Luckily, however, local multiplayer retains this focus and makes for an enjoyable and challenging experience. Obviously, this relies heavily on having friends who wish to play the game on your couch. If you have seven like-minded mates, then you’ll have an enjoyable time.

Select your level and create your plan.

The level design attempts to freshen up the action.

Where Mind Maze excels is its wide array of levels that are on offer. The selection of shapes and sizes enable you to take a different tactical viewpoint. The smaller more compact stages lean towards an aggressive style, whereas the larger expansive grids require you to contemplate the long game. This was an element that I thoroughly enjoyed, though the bigger stages emphasised the imbalance in AI insight. Your turn could take minutes of planning, you’d place your wall and within seconds the computer has seen a move and it would be your turn again. It was pretty soul destroying as you always felt like you’re on the back foot.

Where this is lacking is the inability to use power-ups, or any tools to shift tactics quickly. It would have been interesting and refreshing to have a level shook up with the ability to place more than one wall, or walls crumbling after several turns. This would have added layers to what is otherwise a steady experience that plateaus early on. Dots and Boxes isn’t an advanced game, but Sometimes You had the chance to place a fresh stamp on this family favourite. What they’ve presented is true to the original game, but I’m greedy and I wanted more.

Mind Maze had a clean simple look with futuristic Tron touches.

Not only did Mind Maze stay true to the core concept, but it maintained a simple look as well. The uniformed approach of grey cells coloured by neon walls and balls made it easy to look at. The contrasting colours and clean lines gave this a futuristic look similar to the film Tron. The top-down viewpoint and basic UI allow you to concentrate on the action unfolding before you. I appreciated the glowing hue that shows the last-placed wall, as following every computer move can be difficult. This was especially prevalent on the larger maps and this ensured you could plan accordingly. 

The audio followed suit with a synth style and upbeat tone. The dated but suitable soundtrack was pleasant to listen to as you while away the hours. Where this was lacking was a layer of excitement! When I captured squares or was victorious, I wanted there to be fireworks or a rapturous round of applause. Sadly, you get nothing, which made your success feel hollow and pointless. 

So many boxes and so much colour.

A basic game shouldn’t have clunky controls. 

When a game is this straightforward, I don’t expect there to be any issues with the controls. Unfortunately, they are clunky and lead to unforced errors. Moving around each map is performed with the analogue stick, you’ll want to select a grid, but inexplicably it won’t let you. You’ll keep wiggling the stick until you get where you want to be, which made this frustrating to play and it’s something I didn’t expect to encounter. As the game relies heavily on this movement mechanic, it should have been perfect, yet sadly it wasn’t. 

As a multiplayer experience with friends Mind Maze is great. It captures the competitive edge and is truly moreish. You’ll scream at each other with rage and want to play repeatedly to be crowned the victor. Playing against the computer doesn’t hold the same allure, mainly because of their imbalance and strange tactical choices. If you have friends who like this genre, you’ll find plenty of replay value. If not, it’s fun as a casual experience but don’t expect to play it for hours on end. 

Mind Maze is fun and challenging but is lacking in key parts. 

Mind Maze at a base level is exactly what I expected, challenging, fun, and addictive with friends. I was disappointed, however, that it failed to develop past the basic concept. There was so much potential to create a unique game that it was a shame the opportunity was missed. I enjoyed it in short bursts and lost hours playing local multiplayer. It’s for these reasons I recommend you buy it here! It’s a casual puzzle experience that stays true to the original paper-based game. Place your walls, capture the squares, and become the dots and boxes champion. 

SUMMARY

Mind Maze takes influence from the paper-based game dots and boxes. A simple concept is held back by its lack of modes and inability to forge an original path. It can be played solo or with friends and I found the latter mode to be more enjoyable. With nice clean graphics and simple but futuristic audio, it has a basic but pleasant presentation.

+ Clean lines and vivid neon colours give this a futuristic edge.
+ Electronic sound complements the theme and graphics.
+ Quick matches allow this to be played casually.
+ Enjoyable against human players.
- The AI lacks balance and logic.
- The controls are clunky.
- It fails to reach its potential.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: [email protected]

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