What makes a monster? Is it the horns and the mutilation, or is it the quiet horrors within that are more grotesque than the physical? Unmaze attempts to tackle that question through a compelling narrative and light-based gameplay, but first, can you make it out of the labyrinth to find the answers that you seek?
The story of UnmazeIf you’re familiar with the classic Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, chances are you won’t have too difficult a time trying to figure out why there are so many horns and literal twists and turns in the game. True to the tale, Ariadne guides Theseus through the labyrinth with a string, but in this contemporary retelling, things aren’t as black and white (although the monochromatic artwork begs to differ).
In Unmaze, you play as Ariadne, talking to your brother Asterion and your lover Theseus through a mysterious blue crystal you stumble upon in your brother’s room. The two boys have been missing near the abandoned quarries for a while now, and they seem to have found themselves in a deep, underground world of monsters and titans.
It’s up to you to lead them out unscathed, but the catch is that you can’t be with them both at the same time. Helping one neglects the other, so it’s basically a game of choice.
Playing with light - Unmaze gameplayThat choice is dictated by the light sensor on your device. Thrusting your phone into the light shifts your screen and pulls you into Theseus’ world, while playing in the dark drags you to where Asterion is. From the very beginning of the game, you‘ll be asked to calibrate your device with what’s “light” and what’s “dark”, so you can set the parameters even if you’re not really playing in broad daylight or tapping away under the covers.
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To keep you from accidentally switching back and forth between the two characters, there’s a lock icon that you can hit to stay in the dark or in the light. Every so often, you’ll come across crystals you’ll need to fill with light or darkness to charge them up - be careful not to overwhelm the crystal, though, as overpowering it can make it explode.
If you do charge it up successfully, it can provide you with more clues as to where you are and where you need to go. Each crystal is consumable - you can tap on it to automatically generate a path to your destination.
Thankfully, the labyrinth itself isn’t too complicated. You simply have to tap on the area you want the characters to run to, which is a relief - I honestly don’t want to have to drag my finger to each pathway just to guide the two boys along. Eventually, when you reach a section of the maze with a faint bluish glow, this will trigger a cut scene that reveals more of the story between Ariadne and the boys, and you can choose how you want to answer them in certain conversations.
Unmaze’s characters and artIn these snippets of conversation, you get to know both Asterion and Theseus a little bit better, although what you discover isn’t really good news. The more you uncover the truth about them, the more you’ll kind of want to leave them to suffer through this twisted version of hell, to be honest.
Still, I did enjoy how the dialogue and characterizations were written. Also, the maze doesn’t get in the way of the story. It’s essentially a visual novel but with a little bit of maze-navigating sprinkled here and there for flavour.
Going through the maze is simply more of a way for you to explore the stunning artwork of every level. And you really will want to, because every single corner of each artwork is a sight to behold. Some scenes are peaceful and breathtaking, while some are creepy enough that they’ll almost make you want to look away (they’re too horrifyingly beautiful that you won’t, though).
I kind of wish there was a gallery where you can unlock all of the art scenes by the end of the game, because I’d love to ogle at the monstrous masterpieces even after the credits roll.
What’s the overall appeal?The thing is, while I’ve always been a story-driven gamer, the narrative here didn’t compel me as much as I thought it would. There are multiple endings you can unlock, but by the end of my playthrough, I found myself satisfied with what I accomplished and didn’t feel compelled enough to replay the game. If there were a feature that lets you replay each chapter to see how things might turn out differently, I probably would - but there isn’t.
Also, what drove me to push forward was my curiosity about that magnificent and monstrous place. There were just too many unanswered questions in my mind about the reality and magic of the maze, and while all I really wanted was to discover more about that mysterious “hell”, what I got instead was a backstory for Asterion and Theseus (and Ariadne too, because she’s as flawed as the rest of ‘em).
Overall, I did enjoy my playthrough of Unmaze, even if it wasn’t quite what I expected. The “fear of missing out” bug will bite you each time you choose one character over the other, because getting back to the character you neglected will prompt them to snap snarky comments at you about leaving them.
They might also reveal colossal encounters as matter-of-factly as possible (something along the lines of “Oh, I met a giant beast who tried to eat me while you were gone, by the way. No biggie.”). This might make you long for a do-over, or make you roll your eyes and leave that character to his demise - it’s up to you, because both characters aren’t very likeable to begin with, sadly.