Riddle of the Maze
Review by Orb
This is a rare game based on Christopher Manson's interactive
book Maze and released as an interactive title by Fathom
Pictures, a mid-90s design company that was based in Sausalito,
California. Yes indeedy, this game is simply one giant maze. Now
before I hear groans from those who spent days trapped in any
number of mindless adventure game mazes, let me clarify this a
bit. The is not your mama's adventure game maze. This is something
new entirely. The book itself has a very devoted following.
Upon release, this was billed as "The World's Most Challenging
Puzzle," which of course made me snicker. After all, who
among us has not seen some lame, over-the-top pronouncement from
some silly mid-90s piece of overblown multimedia? Well, I don't
want to appear to be a dork, but this actually took me quite a
few days, and some extensive notes, to navigate. I'm still whining.
Who would've thunk it?
The story is simple. You are deposited in front of the Maze,
as a member of a group touring it, given instructions and clues
from a voice-over guide, and are told to go ahead and go on in.
The entrance looks a bit like a museum or old house that you might
visit. The purpose of the game is to find your way to the center
of the Maze, gathering clues along the way, solve the riddle at
the center, and find your way back out via the shortest route.
The graphics are reproductions of the rooms from the pages of
the book, which are illustrated with Manson's original art. Each
room is entirely different, and each contains clues to solve the
riddle as well as doors to other rooms. Clues are found in the
artwork of the room and in animations. Each has its own bit of
prose delivered by your guide, designed to give you further clues
as well. I found the illustrations very reminiscent of the style
of Edward Gorey or Charles Addamsthey are extremely well-designed
and slightly surreal.
Each room is a puzzle and has clues to figure out from examination.
These aren't puzzles in the normal adventure game sense, these
are puzzles where you look at the picture in front of you to determine
what it means. The goal is to find the shortest route to the center
and back while solving the puzzle in the center room, once you
determine what that puzzle is. The ideal number of steps that
can be done in and back out of the maze is 16.
The book Maze can be ordered at Amazon.com.
While you're there, check out the reader reviews. These people
are seriously addicted! This game on CD-ROM is extremely hard
to find, one of those best hunted for on eBay. I have, however,
located the entirety
of the game reproduced online for your game-playing pleasure.
The only drawback is that it has been done here in black and white,
so you will miss some of the clever coloring Manson has done with
his art,* and it does lose something in the translation
from color to black and white. You will also miss the sonorous
male voice intoning things, but the text of it is there. I have
tested it against the CD-ROM and found the gameplay to be a complete
parallel. The site also includes a Room Index page, which you
will most certainly need. Here also is a link to a solutions
page fans of the book have compiled.
*September 2002: We received an
email from an enigmatic reader calling him or herself only C,
stating the following: "The book written/drawn by Christopher
Manson (one of two puzzle books by him) was done in black and
white. After Fathom Pictures acquired the rights to do the book
as a CD-I title, the graphic artist lead for the project copied
out the pages from the book, and hand-painted them with water
colors. She then scanned the results in. Her website is at http://www.einneh.com,
and it has some frames from this game, as well as cover art she
did for the later CD-ROM title (which you review) based on many
of the same audio/visual assets. There was some concern about
whether Christopher Manson would approve of the modifications
to his work, but when he flew out to take a look, he seemed happy
with the results."
Designer: Fathom Pictures
Release Date: 1994
Four Fat Chicks Links
Where to Find It