Review by Retro

Reviewed: 12/15/03

I've never cared much for mazes, but this is a-maze-ing!

Maze Craze. That's something I've never had. I've never been a big fan of mazes in video games, especially the ones that are timed. It's too easy to get lost, and many are hard enough to have you pulling out enough of your hair to detect a growing bald spot within minutes.

But there are always exceptions. The game, Maze Craze: A Game of Cops And Robbers (Maze Craze for short), is one of these nice exceptions. In classic late seventies Atari style, when you turn on the game there is no title screen. The game's one and only screen is already up and waiting to be played. It's nothing more than a dull green and orange maze with what looks to be an ugly car (it's actually a person) parked somewhere on the left extremity. The boring graphics don't make a good first impression on its onlookers, but it's what's on the inside that counts.

The object of the game is, of course, to get to the end of the maze. The entire maze always fits on one screen, but that's not to say that the game is easy. There are several different twisting roads to take, and even more ways to get lost. If a man earned a nickel every time he ran into a dead end, he'd be pretty wealthy. If he told enough of his friends about it, it could even be a new get rich quick scheme, only it would actually work!

Getting started is easy. You don't even have to press Start on the console! Just use your joystick to move in any of four directions as you try to find the way to the one and only opening (the end) on the right side of the maze.

Don't hit start yet, though! There's a plethora of variations to choose from before beginning – 256 of them. In an interesting twist, you actually play as the cops in Maze Craze. You can choose a variation in which you actually do your job by catching three robbers before exiting to the right. Reverse roles and have it where 2, 3, or 5 robbers chase you! Just one touch from any of these armed bandits and a blasting sound will be heard, symbolizing your death. Have it where robbers once again rule the world, only this time they'll just wound you. You'll be helplessly paralyzed for a few seconds, but you'll slowly but surely regain strength and speed. Set up blockades that your opponent won't be able to pass through....or will he? Finally, you can opt to have a partner who moves ahead of you, randomly suggesting a way to go, but if you think this scout is incompetent, ignore him and go your own way.

As exhausting as it may be to read a list of the seemingly endless supply of variations available in Maze Craze, that's not all. Each game also has a different speed and visibility, depending on the variation. Your cop may move at regular speed, be excruciatingly slow, or blazingly fast. The 'visibility' feature of Maze Craze is unique, relevant, and fun to toggle with. As you're pressing the game select button on your console to cycle through the games, you'll notice that in most of them, part or all of the maze is invisible. In some of the completely invisible ones, the maze will flash onto the screen every few seconds, while in others you're left in the dark. Try finding your way out of that one!

The simplistic, smooth controls make it easy to maneuver full speed through more twists and turns than you can count without hitting a single wall, but in your haste to reach the end before your friend does, you'll run into your share of walls. Each time you do, you'll hear a beep, which can be quite humorous in a two-player game when you hear several beeps in a row. Here's another classic memory that can be made while playing head to head against a live opponent in Maze Craze: Having not looked over the maze and thus not knowing exactly where to go, you set off on a certain path. You notice after turning a few corners that your friend/sibling is following right on your heels. ''What you doing following me?'' you ask. Your opponent replies by saying, ''I don't know where to go, so I figured I'd follow you.'' Before you know it, you run into a dead end. Now you have to go all the way back to the start and go the other way. You snicker as you say to your pal, ''I told you following me isn't a good idea.''

That's the experience you'll get from Maze Craze. You'll remember the game more for the fun times you have while playing it with a friend, no doubt. But when you're the only one around, it's still a lot of fun to challenge yourself (no computer players are allowed, apparently) to reach the end in one piece against the enemies, the invisible surroundings, or even just to make it through as many of the different shapes of the mazes as you can. The never-changing, simplistic graphics that hardly ever have any animation, the total lack of music, and the 1/4 handful of basic sounds don't drag this title down a bit. They're just a sign of the times - a time much simpler and carefree than the one we live in today. There's simply no losing when it comes to having Maze Craze in your collection.

PS - Every time you complete a maze and decide to start another game of the same variation, the screen will become dark and flash for about three seconds. This is the new maze loading, by aid of an algorithm, onto your television screen. Don't make the mistake I almost made and think that you have a defective cart.

Have a good day!

Rating: 9

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