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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 Addams—they 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." The End

The Verdict

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The Lowdown

Designer: Fathom Pictures
Publisher: Interplay
Release Date: 1994

Available for: Macintosh

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System Requirements

Not known

Where to Find It

Check the Game TZ

 
   
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