Wii Fanboy Review: The Incredible Maze

The Incredible Maze is based on a simple, solid game concept: the wooden "labyrinth" toy. You know the one: you turn dials to tilt a wooden maze so that a ball rolls to the destination point without falling into strategically-placed holes. This concept is the basis for Super Monkey Ball, Kororinpa, and even (sort of) Mercury Meltdown Revolution. The Wii Remote, which can be physically tilted to control gameplay, seems like a natural for this sort of thing.

It's harder than it looks to implement good tilt control on the Wii, however. And The Incredible Maze's tilt controls take what would otherwise be a pretty benign game and ruin it.

Whereas Monkey Ball and the others use the labyrinth concept in some fantastical setting, The Incredible Maze is never more than a literal maze: a flat platform floating in space (which comprises some obnoxious background image). There are different visual themes: the first set of levels looks like a regular wooden labyrinth, and the second has some futuristic circuitboard-esque look with lines of colored lights racing about. The simple, representative nature of the game is fine considering the cost. And it's not like the gameplay is affected by the fact that your ball is just a ball and not a baby monkey inside a ball.

These platforms start off simple: mazes consisting of wide lanes surrounded by walls. Then the lanes narrow and become dotted by holes; the walls disappear, and the mazes get more winding. Holding the Wii Remote sideways, your motions correspond to tilting movements on the board. And this is where the game crosses the line between average and awful.

The motion controls are far too sensitive. The board constantly jitters when you hold the Wiimote, responding to the shaking of your hands. Any perceptible movement jerks the board around. It takes an excessively soft touch to successfully navigate the maze. Of course, since all that happens when you lose is that an "attempts" count increments and you're dropped back in the area you were, it doesn't really matter how many times you fall as long as you make a bit of progress each time. I'd love to try for a perfect run, but that is madness.

Compounding the difficulty controlling the movement of the ball is the fact that there's no absolute visual cue to the orientation of the board. It's not that the board doesn't visibly tilt, but rather that the neutral position (the position at which the ball doesn't roll) is not displayed as straight above the board; rather, it's displayed as being viewed from near the bottom of the maze. The skewed perspective makes it really hard to tell by sight which way the board is tilted -- until a new ball drops down and falls right off the side again. The only way to recover from a fall like that is to try to correct a little bit every time the ball comes down and watch as its beeline to the edge slows a little each time. Most of the time, the perspective causes holes to be obscured by walls, as well.

It is possible, and sometimes necessary, to make the ball jump across the stage or over a wall. You do this by rapidly flicking the Wiimote in the right direction. The jumping is incredibly flaky, however. In my experience, trying to jump resulted in a high-speed roll in the wrong direction or nothing, while careful, slow motions would occasionally send the ball rocketing across the stage. It's seemingly impossible to control the distance of your jump even if you do successfully jump, so you may clear the target row entirely, or jump back to the beginning of the maze (which happened a couple of times).

Surprisingly, the Balance Board controls are a lot less temperamental, though still too difficult for the game to be playable for any amount of time. The jump is mapped to the A button in this case, which helps you reliably pull off the move, though it doesn't help with the accuracy at all.

I'm fairly certain that even if the controls worked, The Incredible Maze would be kind of boring. But instead it's profoundly irritating. The controller seems to actively oppose your attempts to move smoothly and subtly, and the game's one special move requires you to fling the Wiimote around. The most incredible thing about The Incredible Maze is how quickly it infuriated me.

Final Score: 2/10

We're always looking for new games to enjoy. We've got plenty of other WiiWare reviews, if you're into that kind of thing.. If you're so crazy that you want to go to the store and buy something when you could be playing World of Goo or Mega Man 9, we can help with that, too.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.