Come for the fun take on word games, stay for the Daily Challenge.
Android & iOS
# of Players
Maze Machina is another original game from Tinytouchtales, the creators of Miracle Merchant among others. Players control a mouse attempting to escape a 15 level maze which is populated by Machina. You must use items laying on the tiled board to eliminate the Machina, grab the key, and move onto the next level. Be careful, however, as you will lose stamina with each move and replenishing food only shows up every three levels. A very poor game can last a couple of minutes while a full game can take around 20 or 25 minutes.
Truth be told, Maze Machina is likely the least board game-like title we’ve reviewed on this site. Miracle Merchant very much borrowed from the board game world, but Maze Machina really doesn’t owe much to any cardboard inspiration, at least that we can see. So, why are we reviewing it? Well, it’s really great, and that’s a good enough reason for us.
You, a mouse, are plopped down into a 4x4 grid to start the game. One tile is the covered exit while each of the other tiles has some item symbol showing. A few Machina are placed on various tiles, these are the enemies who take the form of adorable tiny robots. Finally, a key is placed on one of the tiles. You must grab the key to uncover the exit, then make it to that exit tile to escape to the next level. This repeats for 15 levels, the only real differences being that every third level a bit of food shows up to replenish your stamina, should you grab it before it is destroyed and more Machina will show up later in the game.
To play, you simply swipe the screen in one of the four cardinal directions and your mouse, along with everything else on the board, attempts to move one space in that direction. “Attempts” is the key term here, as Machina will get in the way and item abilities will be used.
The items on the tiles play a central role. Each tile contains three items, flipping to the next one after the previous is used. The items are wide ranging. A dagger will instantly attack an adjacent enemy in the direction you move, compared to a sword which will only attack if you are forced onto the same tile through movement. Mines blow up anybody who is forced to move onto that tile. Ice blocks are thrown a couple of spaces to temporarily freeze you or a Machina. A bow and arrow will attack two or more spaces away. There are also a handful of movement-modifying items. The map is crucial as it will transport the exit tile to the space on which the map was played, which changes the entire board in an instant. You can also toss Machina around, jump multiple spaces yourself, or do other things. All of these items are used by anybody standing on the tile, be it you or Machina.
The movement/item/Machina/escape portion of the game is a pure puzzler and it is difficult in its own right. The key feature of Maze Machina that I believe will make or break the game for you is the stamina aspect. Stamina turns an already difficult puzzle into an excruciating one by making it an optimization problem as well. Not only do you need to escape successfully, you must be careful not to waste movements. That that darn food, the literal cheese dangling in front of you. It only shows up every third floor, but it becomes increasingly difficult to actually grab it as the board gets more crowded with Machina. And if you don’t grab it, well, good luck making it three more levels.
Expanding on the movement front, one of the most important decisions you can make in this game is not moving. That is, moving to an item which acts and keeps you in place rather than moving you with the entire Machina herd. “Staying behind” a space often opens up the board, allowing you an escape from a potentially ugly trap. These kinds of strategies weren’t obvious to me the first twenty times I played the game, but revealed themselves with more play. That kind of depth in such a simple game is impressive.
I feel like Maze Machina will be a bit divisive. It is really, really difficult and there is a lot of “luck of the draw” in play here. If the cheese gets put in an impossible spot, you are almost certainly going to lose, for example. It’s also gorgeous, a brilliant puzzle game, and incredibly addicting if you are one to sink your teeth into games like this. Miracle Merchant appealed to just about anybody with a phone due to its simplicity. Personally, I think this is a fantastic game that I will likely keep around for a while. It’s agonizing quite frequently, but I’m a sucker for a good puzzle.
Barrier to Entry
Maze Machina is an incredibly simple game at its core, but the devil is in the details here with over 20 different items in play. The tutorial walks you through the very basics slowly, including a few of those items, then leaves you to discover the remaining 20. One pops up after each room cleared and the game provides a description. All of this works pretty well, but it will likely take a handful of games for the items and rules to become second nature. Thankfully the app is addicting enough that it won’t take long to get those games under your belt. The app also allows you to long press on any tile to get a description of what that item does, which greatly speeds up the learning curve.
Look and Feel
The look and feel of this game are amazing. Graphically, the theme is carried out across the entire game, Machina and your mouse look great, with your poor little guy even showing signs of fatigue as your stamina drops dangerously low. There are animations for every object which all look great. The puppetmaster robot overlord guy sitting in the background looks great with him taking some damage with each level passed, and so on.
Control wise, it’s a marvel how much Tinytouchtales can pull off when the only action in a game is swiping. There is no undo button, but the game will warn you when you are about to make a move which will result in your demise.
Maze Machina does not have online play. There is, however, a daily challenge mode which allows you to see how you stack up against other players. A daily challenge game has some set of modifiers to switch things up, such as extra enemies, random walls blocking things, and others.
Aside from the normal play mode, dubbed “Normal”, and the aforementioned Daily mode, the game features a few others ways to play. Limit mode removes all food from the game and limits the game to 250 total moves. Draft mode allows you to pick one of three special rule modifiers each time you eat food, these can be positive or negative modifiers such as stamina boosts or extra enemies.
The game is free to download on Android and the primary play mode (“Normal”) is fully free. The other modes, Limit, Draft, Daily, and Challenge, all can be played after watching a video advertisement. Alternatively, you can unlock all of the modes for a one time in-app purchase. On iOS, the game is paid from the start so there are no ads.
The Wrap Up
There’s nothing to nitpick in this game aside from whether or not the actual game might appeal to you. It is tough, really tough, and seeded with randomness that might make or break your game which can be frustrating. Or, you could relish the challenge and find yourself addicted to this game for a long time.
That call is up to the reader. What I can tell you as a reviewer is that the game is really well designed and implemented. The artwork throughout is fantastic and the amount of game that can be packed into simply swiping one of four directions is astounding. If you suspect you are at all inclined to like a difficult puzzler like this, I would highly recommend checking it out. Or not, if you don’t want your life to be overtaken by an addicting app.