Developer / Publisher – InnerspaceVR / MWM Interactive
Price(PS) – US $24.99 / CA $29.99 / EU €24.99 / UK £19.99 / AU $36.95
Release Date – April 20th, 2021
Control Method – 2 x Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing
Reviewed on – Oculus Quest 2 via link
Store Links – Oculus, PlayStation, Steam
Maskmaker is the follow up title to Innerspaces’s previous VR puzzler ‘A Fisherman’s Tale’ released back in 2019. I praised that game for it’s wonderful use of VR and scale-based puzzles though it was a fairly short affair and I craved more! Now just over 2 years later we get to see if that VR ingenuity can carry over into Maskmaker, a much larger game that has you assuming the role of a magic mask makers new apprentice tasked with continuing the work he started many years prior from the comforts of his mask shop.
You never leave the mask shop or rather, your body never does, though by no means does this mean the game is small. The core mechanic that pushes everything along is said mask making which is an in-depth and satisfying process. Once you discover the creation room, you’ll be introduced to the process of mask making which requires you to have a basic blueprint for the mask whereupon you carve it out using a hammer and chisel (easier than it sounds) and proceed to paint it and add the decorations needed to make it magical. Those decorations are where the game takes a turn as they are hidden throughout a mysterious world only accessible by wearing specifically coloured masks. The initial 3 base colors (red, yellow & blue) bring you to 3 areas of the mask world with each of those broken up into smaller sections only accessible by creating new masks. This same formula continues in the 2nd half of the game when you unlock 3 more base masks, opening up 3 more stages to explore. When navigating each world using full locomotion or teleportation (along with standard comfort settings) you’ll come across other mask wearing wooden beings frozen in place. By summoning a spyglass found early on, you can effectively scan them, unlocking the blueprint for that mask and, once created, allows you to teleport into that being. The thing is, in order to make these masks you’ll have to find those decorations scattered throughout each world and are often blocked by environmental puzzles that are creative, fun & challenging. Some of these are as simple as turning dials on knobs in the correct pattern with others being much more complex like operating a series of dams or transferring potion ingredients from one mask wearer to another. While you steadily progress towards each worlds castle and beyond, you’ll also find items that elaborate upon the story of the Maskmaker and the mask world as well as statues that reveal that there may be more going on than is initially apparent.
Maskmaker has a wonderful art style reminiscent of games like Falcon Age or Fisherman’s Tale with a more minimalist and cartoonish art-style that looks great in VR. For the most part, you’ll visit several major areas during the campaign which include a beach, swamp, mines and few others with all of them containing an array of smaller zones including various villages, bamboo forest, caverns, cliff sides and a bunch more smaller biomes that are a treat to travel through. While the art style used can look a little stark at time, there is an attention and care in the details that make it all feel very authentic. Abandoned villages have items strewn about and are in disrepair, the looming tower in the distance hints at the ominous happenings that affected this world before your arrival with each stage packed full of plants, debris, and details that immediately had me immersed in this game. The mask maker’s shop is a compact little building packed full of all the items you’ll need to create your masks. It’s a fun activity that has you mixing paints and dipping items in said paints before applying them to a mask, mounted on an extension arm with new tools unlocking the further you get. Creating new masks is a satisfying process not just because it’s so tactile, but also because the next magical mask you make unlocks the next section in your journey. There is an overall refinement in the presentation here that makes it all feel very organic and while the game may seem to be quite small at 1st, once I unlocked a few masks, it soon became clear that it is much larger than I initially thought.
The care that went into the visual presentation carries over into the audio side of side of things thanks to some fantastic voice acting and ambient soundtrack which kicks in only when needed. Accompanying you on your quest is the King of the mask world who elaborates on everything you stumble across and pick up. His sombre and solemn tone carry with it a heavy burden and the undertones that he may be withholding information from you. Back in the real-world, the masks hanging around the shop offer up advice about mask making. 3D audio is on point though there isn’t a lot happening at any given time with the soundtrack adding to the weight of heavier moments but falling into the background when you are just roaming around giving the entire game a nice cinematic quality.
I almost instantly fell in love Maskmaker as there is a lot to take it and it all works near seamlessly. At the time of this review, the locomotion options are messy with click-turning having an automatic 180 reverse option mapped to pushing down on your right thumb stick. As you also turn with that thumb stick, I found myself accidentally turning 180 degrees while turning 45 degrees at the same time causing for bouts of disorientation as I regained my bearings. Smooth locomotion removes that 180-turn function and has a slider to increase or decrease the speed of the turn, but even at max is still painfully slow and I ended up going back and forth between both options until one drove me mad enough to go back the other. It can also be easy to miss decorations for the masks so make sure you fully explore every area as paths may not look obvious and 2 times during my play, I was wandering around each masks area just to find a tiny item I had missed on my previous passthrough of that level. My last issue won’t affect everyone, but as a guy with some mild red/green color blindness a few of the masks held me up as I tried to decipher some of the colors, specifically the orange color which looked both red and yellow at times though each blueprint does tell you at the bottom how many different colors are needed which helped me narrow down my choices. All my issues are minimal at worst with my largest one easily fixed by a quick patch meaning that there really isn’t a lot to complain about.
Maskmaker is my kind of game offering up a unique take on puzzling by having you transfer from body to body, working with yourself to complete objectives. In many ways it reminded me of Transpose, one of the best VR puzzlers ever made, but where that game lacked story, this one has it in spades. The narrative has some nice twists and turns, especially in the latter half of the game and when combined with the pleasant visuals, clever puzzles and just how that story unfolds, I really can’t deny how much fun I had with this!
What would I pay? I am so cool with the $25 US asking price on this as it’s honestly worth more! The campaign has some legs taking somewhere in the 6-to-8-hour realm to beat and entertained me from beginning to end. Fans of games like Transpose, A Fisherman’s’ Tale or Red Matter should eat this up as it’s one of the most engaging VR puzzle games I have ever played.
Innerspace provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!