Review: Unmaze – A myth of shadow and light
June 21st, 2021
Play the first chapter for free (about 1 hour of play)
Unlock the full game with an in-app purchase
New gameplay based on your phone's light sensor
A contemporary adaptation of the myth of the Minotaur and the labyrinth
Actions that directly influence the way the story plays out
An immersive story full of twists and turns with 8 alternative endings
A rich universe with 5 chapters and 10 mazes to explore
A dark and mesmerizing atmosphere
What does it take to create a monster? Is it the horns and the mutilation that are more horrific than the physical, or is it the quiet horrors within? Unmaze, a game developed by ARTE Experience and published on June 21st, 2021, tries to answer that question with a gripping story and light-based gameplay, but first, can you make it out of the labyrinth to get the answers you seek?
If you’re familiar with the legendary Greek fable of Theseus and the Minotaur, you shouldn’t have too much trouble figuring out why the game has so many horns and actual twists and turns. Ariadne uses a string to guide Theseus through the labyrinth, but things aren’t as black and white in this contemporary rendition (although the monochromatic artwork begs to differ). In Unmaze, you play as Ariadne, who communicates with her brother Asterion and lover Theseus via a mysterious blue crystal she discovers in her brother’s room. The two boys have been gone for some time in the abandoned quarries, and they appear to have wandered into a dark, underground world of monsters and giants. It’s up to you to guide them out safely, but there’s a catch: you can’t be with both of them at the same time. Assisting one causes the other to suffer, therefore it’s essentially a game of choice.
The light sensor on your device determines which option you have. Playing in the dark brings you to where Asterion is while thrusting your phone into the light alters your screen and pulls you into Theseus’ reality. You’ll be asked to calibrate your device with what’s “light” and “dark” right at the start of the game, so you can set the parameters even if you’re not playing in broad daylight or tapping away under the covers. There’s a lock icon that you may press to stay in the dark or the light, preventing you from accidentally moving between the two letters. You’ll come across crystals that you’ll need to charge up with light or darkness now and again; be careful not to overwhelm the crystal, as overdoing it can cause it to explode. If you successfully charge it, it will provide you with more information about where you are and where you need to travel. Each crystal is a consumable item that can be tapped to generate a path to your desired location.
Fortunately, the labyrinth isn’t too difficult to navigate. You simply tap on the region where you want the characters to run, which is a godsend because we don’t want to have to drag our fingertips down each trail to lead the two guys. When you approach a portion of the maze with a faint bluish glow, a cut scene will appear, revealing more of Ariadne’s narrative and allowing you to choose how you want to respond to them in specific dialogues. The problem is that, while we’ve always been story-driven games, the tale here didn’t hold our attention as much as we expected. There are several endings to achieve, but we were content with what we accomplished by the end of our playtime and didn’t feel inclined to replay the game. We’d probably use it if there was a tool that allowed you to replay each chapter to see how things might have turned out differently – but there isn’t. Unmaze was a fun game to play, even if it didn’t quite live up to our expectations. The “fear of missing out” bug will bite you every time you choose one character over the other because returning to the character you ignored will cause them to sneer at you for abandoning them.