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Maquette review – exhilarating worlds within worlds

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March 06, 2021 at 01:00PM

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(Graceful Decay; Annapurna Interactive; PC, PS4/5)
This simple girl-meets-boy story plays out in a series of abstract dioramas, each one bigger than the next

Maquette opens with a conversation between two strangers in a San Francisco coffee shop, a flirty interaction sparked over a sketchbook. Romance soon follows and the game – the latest from the tasteful video game arm of the Hollywood studio Annapurna – charts the blossoming of a young relationship. It’s a straightforward premise for a game that is anything but.

The simplest way to understand the highly experimental design that sits at Maquette’s core is to imagine, on your kitchen table, a scale replica of the street outside. Move an object on the model and, simultaneously, the full-size object moves, with great, clunking heft, outside your door. You might, for example, place a tiny model staircase beside a neighbour’s high fence on the model. Step outside and you are able to physically clamber on to the staircase and hop into the neighbour’s garden. The game is, then, a series of nested dioramas: move an object in one dimension and it moves in the others, at scales both great and small. It’s a simple interaction that leads to mystifying complexity – much in the same way a relationship develops from a first kiss.

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