review by Kendra
Magic Maze is a fantastic cooperative game that feels like a party game without, in point of fact, being a party game. In this silent game, the hero pawns are controlled by everyone, which means everyone gets to play orange! And green! And purple! And yellow!
What is unique to each player is the direction and "function" that they play, such as the ability to move pawns North, or the ability to use escalators, or the ability to move pawns West or any other NESW direction. In order to win, each pawn must land on its matching colored item. This marks the halfway point and after the first item is landed on, the timer can no longer be flipped, which leads to a mad dash to escape to the requisite colored escape ladders.
Sound confusing? It's really not, but my ability to relay rules might be. What is great is that every single player must be paying attention to where the pawns are lest a crucial move, South or West or any other single direction, be overlooked. What happens then? Well, a giant red pawn is placed in front of the inattentive player and everyone pauses to stare meaningfully at them.
Rarely have I heard so many groans of pain as when a player who had dared pay more attention to their incoming texts than to the game panics and randomly moves a pawn, putting it horribly out of position. This game takes tension and mixes it with ridiculousness and mirth in a way that feels like a party, but plays with full attention to strategy.
This is also a game that my ADHD fueled, tactile, and high-interactivity loving brain simply cannot get enough of. Whereas I often espouse the wonders of games that allow everyone to participate and have a fun gaming experience regardless of levels of competitiveness, this type of almost antagonistic cooperation is another form of pure delight.
In addition to my doting experience with this fast paced, easy-to-pick-up, cooperative game, it has won a huge number of awards, including being a Sax Serenade Keeper from GameBoyGeek, the Monsieur Guillaume Approved stamp from TricTrac.net, the Dice Tower Seal of Excellence, and the Dice Tower Best Party Game award.
This is a fantastic game to open a night of gaming or close one after a serious, heavy euro game. It can be a great palate cleanser between heavier games. The components are sturdy and set-up is very quick. The colors are not so jaw-droppingly neon as some games, but nor are they particularly beige, with every available option on the board easy to see and the saturation of the various colors nice and bright. The font used on the letters of the cards for the various difficulty levels are easy to read and allow for the whole stack to be divided between players to expedite setup.
I regard this game very highly with the flaw of cooperative games being more coercive than cooperative being handled via leaning into the pressure of coercion, working to make the game quick, immersive, and that special kind of epic that comes from realizing in a panic that you don't know what everyone wants, but you are fully aware that everyone wants you to do something.
Magic Maze is available now from our webstore.