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The Amazing Maze Game (Arcade) artwork

The Amazing Maze Game (Arcade) review


"The Mundane Maze Game"


The Amazing Maze Game, or simply Amazing Maze according to the marquee artwork, is an extremely basic two-player maze game. Developed by Dave Nutting Associates, the same company that previously worked on Gun Fight, and originally released to arcades by Midway in the fall of 1976, the game tests your ability to traverse a simulated maze and reach the goal before your opponent can do the same. The maze game genre is one of the oldest video game genres. Most people, including non-gamers, are at least familiar with Namco’s Pac-Man, which ultimately became a pop culture icon. Maze video games have actually been around since the days of mainframes and minicomputers, usually designed as tech demos for their respective hardware. The Amazing Maze Game was one of the first commercial maze video games, and despite what the title wants everyone to believe, the game really isn’t that amazing.

The Amazing Maze Game can be played against a friend or a computer player. Each player uses a single joystick to control the horizontal and vertical movements of a tiny geometric shape on the screen and make their way through a traditional top-down maze. One player controls a square, while the other controls a diamond. Logically, the simple control scheme should be easy for players of any skill level to get used to. However, they will have to cope with some overly sensitive collision detection for the maze walls. Moving around with the four-direction joystick can feel jerky, as you have to be precise when trying to turn corners. This is especially annoying when there’s a fork in the maze paths and you need to take a specific path. Thankfully, it doesn’t take too long to get a handle on the controls, but a series of directional buttons might have been more favorable for this type of game than an analog joystick.

According to promotional materials, the game includes over a million different mazes to navigate, a rather impressive amount considering the game’s age. At the beginning of a game session, each player starts on a different side of the maze, and must make their way to their opponent’s starting point. Players are given up to five seconds to memorize the layout of the maze before they start moving. When a player reaches their opponent’s starting point, the former will win the round, and a series of dots will light up to display the path that the winning player took. Afterward, the game will generate another maze. The Amazing Maze Game has a low learning curve, as one would expect from the maze game genre. Conversely, the overall level of challenge is pretty high, especially in the single-player mode.

In the single-player mode, you are initially given three mazes to clear. If you manage to finish all three without letting the computer win, the game will continue to generate new mazes until the computer wins once. Aside from the unpredictable maze formats, the challenge comes from the way the computer player is programmed. The computer always knows exactly how to reach its designated exit and rarely makes mistakes. The computer’s movement speed will increase a little after each maze. As early as the third or fourth maze, making a wrong turn will likely result in an easy victory for the computer player.

The multiplayer mode has the same basic maze-solving gameplay as the single-player mode, with the obvious difference being that the second player is a human instead of a computer. Game sessions tend to be significantly shorter in the multiplayer mode. Players are given four to six minutes to finish three mazes. The first player to solve two out of the three mazes is the winner. However, if the players are skilled enough, the time limit won’t matter at all, as they will probably finish the game in about a minute or less. Because a single multiplayer session can end so quickly, the standard 25-cent price just doesn’t feel justified. Some of Midway’s previous multiplayer games allowed players to have multiple sessions with one credit, so it seems strange that The Amazing Maze Game did not utilize a similar credit system.

The Amazing Maze Game does not take advantage of its microprocessor-based hardware when it comes to its presentation. Rather, the game takes a minimalist approach to the design of its graphics. Each maze is composed of thin white lines representing walls, all displayed on a black background. The text used for displaying game information near the borders of the screen uses the same basic font as Gun Fight. The monochrome graphics are given some minor flair by a bright green overlay on the monitor. It’s not the best-looking game from the mid-seventies, but at least you can tell what everything is. The only real drawback comes from the fact that all of the mazes look too similar to each other, despite their differences in layout. Experienced players will probably get bored with the repetitive maze graphics.

As they navigate the mazes, players will have to deal with some primitive and mildly annoying audio. The Amazing Maze Game does not contain any standard sound effects, but it does make frequent use of Dig Dug-style Mickey Mousing; music plays while a player moves their symbol, and the music pauses when the player stops moving. The music is just a simple sequence of high and low tones, slightly changing in pitch when the player changes direction. The computer player does not produce any sound. While the music isn’t too bothersome, the absence of any music at all might have been preferable.

Compared to other video games of the time, Midway’s labyrinth simulation is rather unremarkable. The gameplay is just too basic in design, and it can get very boring after a while. Although the single-player mode does provide a satisfactory level of challenge, the multiplayer mode, which would normally be the main draw of a typical mid-seventies video arcade game, is just too short to bother with. Assuming Midway’s advertisers weren’t exaggerating, the astronomical number of mazes is the only amazing feature of The Amazing Maze Game. Four years after the release of this game, Midway acquired the publishing rights for the international version of a superior maze game, the aforementioned Pac-Man. If you wish to play a truly amazing maze game, look no further than Namco’s dot-munching masterpiece.

3/5

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Community review by Midcore (July 16, 2018)

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