! If you haven't played it, consider this a dip of the toe into its cuter-than-thou madness. We're not divulging secrets here, this is not a guide of any sort; this is just a record of the way we found the game during our first hour or so of play. Caveat emptor!
First of all, please notice the banner ad at the top of this post. That should tell you everything you need to know about MS in a nutshell: Cute superdeformed anime-esque graphics, goofy-themed gameplay, and an engaging sense of humor about itself. Cyborg turkeys, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Don't forget, clicking on the following pictures leads to their hi-res versions. Read on, O brave audience!
Here we are at the world/channel selection screen. It's busy, it's colorful, it's slightly confusing, but boy is it entertaining. And we haven't even begun playing yet. To the far right is the newest world/server, Yellonde. We choose the first in the list, Scania.
This is where you create/select your existing characters. These eerie glowing outlines are pure potential, nothing more.
There aren't a whole lot of choices for your initial character build; most of the actual customization comes later, when you can buy items in the store. It gets a little crazy in there, and expensive. But more on that later. To the right you can see the "Generate" section, wherein you roll the virtual dice until you get the stats you want. The game recommends a Job based on your roll. Bowman was the Job we got, but we started with a wooden club as our first weapon. From humble beginnings ...
Training camp, where newbies get wedgies from the older camp counselors. A little bit about the interface before the game truly starts: The three basic food groups line the bottom -- HP, MP, and EXP -- with the minimap in the upper right and the quick item slots in the lower right. Keep in mind that these elements are movable, which is good for when you want to see more of your screen.
It begins! The hazing continues, as you enter this training area suddenly dressed as a plant. Bird. Thingy. You can see my character lying on the floor humiliated in this shot. The existential angst had just set in.
These conveyor belts take you past moving dioramas of the different Job locations in Maple Story. It's to these locations that you must travel to get certified training in the Job of your choice. Bowmen must travel to Henesys, which sounds just enough like "Hennessey" to get one excited about heroic drinking binges. Of course, in a land already this bizarre and surreal, any crazed alcohol-fueled rampage could only pale by comparison.
Here's a look at your stats window, but really, it's just another element competing for your attention in an already crowded space. Look! Giant Lego minifig! I guess that'd be a maxifig instead. Nevermind.
Ahh, lovely Maple Island. There's an airship a la Final Fantasy, but that's where the similarities end. The red dots represent playable areas, through which you must travel to get to your destination.
Here's a typical conversation window with an NPC. Notice the Quest Helper window in the upper right corner. This is a handy little device that updates your quest requirements as you finish them. If you need to collect five red snail shells, for example, you'll see how many you've collected and how many you've yet to get.
Ye olde key config window, which is really handy in a game with platforming elements. The default jump button is the Alt key, and the default attack is the Ctrl key, which we found awkward. You can drag and drop actions to whichever keys you find convenient.
Those snails are about to receive the Club of Justice right where it hurts the most. Combat is a simple matter of holding down the attack key, which makes your character keep striking until victory has been achieved. Unfortunately, you can't move while you attack, and enemies will frequently enter your range just as you've completed an attack. This means they run into you, you lose some health and get knocked back, sometimes off of a ledge. It's frustrating, especially when you get knocked back into a horde of enemies. You do the math.
The Maple Store! Never will you find a more wretched hive of scum and low, low prices. As you may have guessed, you pay for these items either with real world cash, or by winning points in certain games. This is where the customization comes in, with all sorts of fever dream hats to wear, crazy pets to buy, and general goofiness.
Pio here wants you to collect Rusty Screws and Old Wooden Boards. He's either trying to put together a racer for the next Maple Soap Box Derby, or he's experimenting with lockjaw. Honestly, we'd believe either.
An example of the types of things you get to fight in MS: an ambulatory, monocular tree stump that cries when you strike it. We love this game.
This salty sailor wants you to prove your mettle by bringing him the head of an Orange Mushroom. Either we're more badass than we knew, or his hasn't been eating his spinach, because after two hits, that cap was ours.
At the time of this writing, there is some sort of Event going on. You can tell because of the balloons. Or maybe they're still celebrating Lent. In MS, it's really hard to tell.
One thing's for sure: the backgrounds are beautiful. Our character here is feeling very majestic in this shot.
The Armor Store. He's chanting his mantra to himself "I'm ready to make some money. I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, players like me!" Of course, he just reminded us of John Goodman's character from The Big Lebowski. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you.
Here's an administrator, warning of the dangers of hacking tools. Isn't she cute? You'd never realize that she has the power to turn you into pixel dust with just a wave of your hand.
Here's the airship we saw earlier on the map, close up. This shot is also notable for what the player character is saying in the upper right. We're assuming she means the Batman movie, currently outgrossing every film known to man, but for all we know, there might be a character named "Batman" in MS. We prefer to keep it a mystery.
Here's a taxi that will take you from place to place at a rather high cost. Given the relatively slow speed of your character's walk, we imagine these come in very handy for getting around.
More adorableness. However, an undercurrent of unease: that house was made form a mushroom. Earlier, we were willing little mushroom dudes. Is someone living in a gigantic mushroom man carcass?
We pass this animated billboard in which these creatures are terrorized by a representative MS player. We pay tribute, then move on.
That's the seediest Easter Bunny we've ever seen. We're not sure we want to get close enough to verify that he's actually smoking a carrot or not, but his shifty eyes follow us as we go past.
Hey, it's a Target! Man those things are ubiquitous! Seriously, if you weren't aware, Maple Story sells game time cards in Target stores now, and this is what Target gets in return. Fair trade?
It's not entirely clear in this shot, but when you finally lose your HP and get killed, you float around as a ghostly figure until you decide to revive yourself. Again, cute.
Leaving a portal to the left and entering one to the right. Incidentally, we realize there hasn't been a lot about gameplay in this post, and that's by design. There isn't a lot to actual gameplay that isn't similar to most other MMOs. The platforming elements are minimal and involve simply moving from one height to another. Combat is extremely simple with few surprises. Admittedly, this is still the early game, so it might get better, but for now, it's easy and serene.
There's a lot to look at in MS, including a Golden Pig with wings. Mmmm ... Golden Bacon.
This is Athena Pierce, the Bigwig in charge of making Bowmen out of regular folk. Here she's telling us that it's important to stay alive. Always a good idea, but apparently after choosing your Job, every time you die you lose all the experience you've collected to that point. That's a hell of a wake-up after the walk in the park up until now.
Here we're choosing among our new Bowmen skills, and here's where we say goodbye to the world of Maple Story for now. On the cusp of greatness, destined for glory in our gotta catch 'em all cap. What surprises await us around the next corner? Does gameplay get more challenging? Will we graduate to fighting actual hominids? Find out for yourself and check out Maple Story today!