There are mazes and there are mazes. While you’ve likely played levels in games that have felt like convoluted labyrinths – a Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, or an Irithyll Dungeon in Dark Souls III – we’d like you to think about the last time you sat down and completed an actual maze. As in, the ones you might find in a puzzle book. The answer is probably ‘not often’, or some variant on it.
It’s certainly a niche. Minemaze has decided to own it, creating a compendium of 420 of them, with barely a single mechanic to share between them. There’s no combat, no secret doors, switches, keycards or warp squares. It’s just you and a two-dimensional maze: a start and a finish, with winding corridors and dead-ends along the way. The closest Minemaze gets to spritzing the gameplay is by adding three gem collectibles into every level, but they don’t unlock anything. If you’re anything like us, you’ll just leave them by the wayside.
Those 420 levels are yours for 79p, which is probably the lowest £-per-level ratio that we’ve come across in an Xbox game. But there’s a reason for that, as you could construct a Minemaze level with a HB pencil and some square paper. There aren’t even any achievements to unlock, as this is part of a rising tide of games on the Xbox Store for less than a £1, all of which have no Live features whatsoever.
There’s a bit of variation that’s worth noting. There are six worlds here, and they represent slightly different things. World one’s levels are tiny, with barely a few dead-ends to their name, while world six’s levels will get you reaching for the monocle, as a whole lot of maze is crammed onto a single game screen. There are only twenty levels in world one, presumably because you can only get so much variation from a maze the size of a postage stamp. In world six, it escalates up to 120.
Each world has a different colour and main character, but it’s so throwaway that we wondered whether to even mention it. They certainly don’t have any impact on the mazes. And that’s it! We’ve finished auditing Minemaze’s contents, and we’re barely out of paragraph five.
If we’re being kind to Minemaze, there is a purity to its approach that might find it an audience. By focusing purely on mazes, it allows a casual player to pick it up and complete puzzles just as they would on paper. And that has its place. 79p isn’t much of a risk, either, so a maze-hungry young’un, for example, might be perfectly suited to Minemaze.
But even then, we have our asterisk. The emphasis on larger mazes feels a bit skew-whiff. It’s in these screen-spanning monstrosities that Minemaze is at its worst, simply because the passages are so small, which makes them hard to pick out on smaller tellies, and they are so much harder to navigate. When your character is small and the corridors only slightly bigger, it’s like threading a needle, and it requires a careful hand. For younger players that is quite the ask. If a greater proportion of the levels were on the easy side, Minemaze might have suited that audience better.
Outside of more casual players, Minemaze still feels like a missed opportunity, even at that sub-£1 price point. Personal highscores might have positioned families against each other, trying to outdo times. The collectibles, too, could have had more use than just ratcheting up a total number. Unlocking skins or hats for the little goober might have made progress less onerous. And did the levels really have to be gated behind each other? Would it have hurt to allow a player to play them in any order?
Minemaze sets out to do one thing and achieves it, but it’s such a tiny, baby step. It’s got its heart set on being a bumper collection of mazes, and it does exactly that. Whether the world wants one is another matter, but it makes for a simple enough offering: if you’re hankering to complete some mazes that could have been lifted from a kids book, and to fumble through them with a pad in your hands, then allow us to introduce you to Minemaze.
If you expect more from a game than turning left or right at junctions, though… well, you’ve taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque and should probably backtrack. Minemaze is not the budget title for you.
You can buy Minemaze from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S